Smith Machine Calf Raises | Wilds Tips For Calf Growth

Calves are made up of stabilization muscles located in the lower leg. They’re often neglected in workout plans.

Taking your calf training seriously can breed some benefits, including added stabilization for squats, leg press, deadlifts, running, and many other movements.

Smith machine calf raises are done from a standing position. They are an excellent substitute for a standing calf raise machine and standing barbell calf raises. Using the smith machine rather than free-weight barbells will also help you stay aligned and balanced allowing more focus to be placed on your calves.

The primary muscles worked are the gastrocnemius and soleus.

Setup For Smith Machine Calf Raises

To perform the calf raises smith machine variation we will start by setting the bar to about shoulder height. Then line up a foot block about six inches in front of the bar on the ground.

This is what you will use to elevate your feet while performing the movement.

calf raise foot blocks
Some of the options to elevate your feet

If your smith machine has stoppers on it, set them at about shoulder height.

Next, add some weight to the bar. Use an amount that you can comfortably rep while getting the proper form down. Don’t shy away though, the great thing about calf raise smith machines is that they normally have the stoppers on them. Which will catch the weight if you drop it.

Calf Raise Smith Machine Setup
Calf Raise Smith Machine Set-Up

Once everything is set up you’re ready to go!

Steps For Proper Execution

  1. Grasp the bar with a firm grip at a comfortable width.
  2. Rest the bar on your traps
    • Avoid resting it on your shoulder bones or neck
  3. Stand on the foot block or plate with the balls of your feet
    • The heel will be unsupported to allow for the proper range of motion
    • Point your toes slightly outwards. This will help engage your hips more, taking tension off the knees.
  4. Keep a slight bend in your knees

Once you’re set up in a comfortable position begin doing reps. Focus on the mind-to-muscle connection by going nice and slow. Squeeze your calf muscles at the top of the rep for 2-3 seconds.

smith machine calf raise start position
Start Position
smith machine calf raises concentric
Concentric Phase

Then begin a slow eccentric phase, lowering your heels as far as they will comfortably go. This will allow you to get an amazing calf stretch at the bottom. Hold it here for a few seconds to feel that stretch.

calf raises on smith machine eccentric
Eccentric Phase

Calf Raise Smith Machine | Equipment Needed

The equipment needed for this exercise includes:

  1. Smith Machine
  2. Weight plates to add on each side of the smith machine
    • You can also use the bar as a guide without adding extra weight
  3. Block to elevate your feet
    • Standing on a 45 Lb Plate works just as well

Full Calf Raise Workout

For me, calves have always been a stubborn muscle group. I have found that training them twice a week provides the best growth with optimal recovery. Although this is my personal experience, if you have weaker calves try upping the training frequency. I have two different training phases that I incorporate into my calf workouts each week.

I have one heavy day and one high-volume day each week.

For both days alike I will start with the heavy or high-volume exercise then end with a burnout movement focused on pumping blood and getting a good stretch.

Here is an example of what a heavy day looks like:

  1. Smith machine calf raises:
    • 5 sets of 8-12
    • Add weight to each set
  2. Seated calf raises:
    • 4×20,15,10,5
    • On the last set of 5 reps, hold every rep at the bottom for five seconds to get a stretch

High volume day:

  1. Leg press calf raises:
    • 8×20,15,10,5,5,10,15,20
  2. Smith machine calf raises:
    • 3×10
    • Stretch at the bottom for ten seconds
    • On the last rep of each set do a static hold for thirty seconds

Tips For Maximizing Calf Growth

As someone with weak calf genetics, here are some of my tips to help you maximize your calf workouts.

  1. Do static reps to get the mind-to-muscle connection
    • Doing static holds will allow you to get a better feel for your calf muscles from the tension they provide
  2. High training frequency
    • If you have small calves, training them once a week just isn’t enough.
    • Try upping the frequency to 2-3 days per week
    • I usually add them on quadricep day and on my second active recovery day of the week
  3. Do the exercises that work for you
    • There are a lot of weird exercises out there that people try to market
    • Don’t just do an exercise to do it
    • Utilize the ones that work best for you

Calf Raises On Smith Machine | Video Demonstration

In this video, I will demonstrate setting up properly, rep tempo, and static holds.

Smith Machine Calf Raises | Video Demonstration

I hope this information was useful in helping you execute smith machine calf raises. Whether you have good or bad calf genetics, training them properly will lead to some serious gains. The definition of properly will vary from person to person.

Thanks for reading…

If you enjoyed this article check out our blog post on Tricep Rope Pushdowns.

Stay Wild!

Eric Decremer
Eric Decremer

Eric is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and competes in the USPA Powerlifting Association. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!

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