Calves are one of the most neglected but important muscle groups in the body. For many of us, our calf muscles are sadly under-trained and weak. This is a shame because if you neglect them they will inevitably start to bother you, and the older we get the more likely it is that this will happen.
The good news though is that calf exercises are an easy way to build muscle in these hard-to-target muscles. Squats are a favourite of many bodybuilders but if you have weak calves, you might need to start off with something else.
Do Squats Work Calves?
During the squat many muscles contract to keep the proper form, the calves are one of the groups of muscles that will contract during a squat. The gastrocnemius muscle group, which is found on the sole of the calf, acts as a stabilizer during a squat. When you are standing, these muscles will be contracted and act like a spring to push you back down.
In order to know if squats work calves, you gotta know what these muscles are capable of and how they function when used properly. The gastrocnemius muscle group will help move your leg forward during the initial positive phase of a squat.
In a study looking at muscle activation patterns during the squat, 28 healthy uninjured subjects performed 5 squats. The results show activation in the gastrocnemius muscle was increased during the squat movement.
So squats will help train the calves, but will they build them up? squats work calves, but not as well as some other exercises.
If you are doing serious bodybuilding and would like to add some size to your calves, then squats are probably better than nothing at all but if you really want to get good results, then it’s worth focusing on exercises that work your calves directly.
Effective Exercises That Targets the Calf Muscles
There are many exercises out there that target the calves more effectively. Here are a few of them:
- Standing Barbell Calf Raise
This exercise focuses on the soleus which is the lower part of your calf. You need a partner or a machine that allows you to isolate this muscle.
- Seated Calf Raise
The seated calf raises can be done with a machine or with dumbbells. Seated calf raises are a great way to target the lower part of your calves, the soleus.
- Donkey Calf Raise
One of the benefits of this exercise is that it works both soleus and gastrocnemius muscles at the same time. This isn’t possible with other calf exercises. It might take a while to get used to it but once you do, you will feel like you are getting more for your workout.
- Single Leg Calf Raise
This exercise works the soleus and also works into your hamstring muscle groups at the same time. It is another great exercise to perform if you have a weak calves or tight hamstrings.
- Weighted Calf Raise
Weighted Calf Raise not only works the calf muscles more effectively because you’re using resistance but also because the weight can add an extra element of challenge to each movement.
Squats are great for your calves because they use both of the muscle groups that need strong calf muscles – the gastrocnemius (lower part of the calf muscle) and soleus (upper part of your calves).
Although the squat works the calves pretty well, there are some other exercises that work the calves better. You should give all of these exercises a try to see which work the best for you. If you truly want to strengthen up those calf muscles try adding some targeted work by doing calf raises.