For most of us, the calves are among the most stubborn body parts to train and develop. Even with the best calf raise machine. That’s not surprising when you consider that they are supporting your body weight all day long.
The consequence of this is that in order to build an impressive pair of calves, you need to work them hard, heavy and regularly.
Having a calf machine in your garage gym is the ideal way to do just that.
In this article, we reveal the 5 best home gym calf machines on the market right now.
Our favorite home use calf raise machine is the Body-Solid Powerlift Leverage Squat Attachment and Calf Raise Machine. It's as if this machine was designed with BOULDER CALVES in mind.
Ok, so we cheated a bit. This machine is a two for one special. Gives you all you need in a machine to work your calves, but also doubles as great for squats.
We love the combination of strength, performance, comfort and value for money that you get with this machine.
The machine is a beast. Nothing more to say. Gives you ability to do super-sets with squats, and the diamond plate angled foot platform and rounded calf raise bar gives you the ability to attack your calves from all angles.....with the heaviest weight you can load.
Our Calf machine OVERVIEW
Calves: An Overview
The calves are considered by most people to be made up of two individual muscles:
Some experts, however, believe that there is just one calf muscle, with two separate heads. That’s because they both have the same insertion points and they also both perform the same function, which can be described as plantar flexion, or the extension of the ankle.
Biomechanics, anatomy and real world weight training experience has shown that the soleus does not have much growth potential. The soleus lies underneath the gastrocnemius (gastro), which forms the mass of the calf muscle.
There are actually two parts to the gastrocnemius. They are generally referred to as the inner and outer heads of the calf muscle. Both of them originate just above the knee and then converge into the achilles tendon, which itself connects to the heel bone.
There is a common gym belief that standing calf raises will focus on the gastrocnemius while seated calf raises will primarily hit the soleus. This, however, is another case of bro science. It seems that the main thing that determines whether the gastrocnemius or the soleus is more targeted is the speed and intensity of the exercise. That’s because the gastro is made up mainly of fast twitch muscle fibers, while the soleus is primarily slow twitch.
The gastro will be more activated when you do speed and intensity work, such as running or during heavy load movements. When you are doing low speed or low intensity activities like walking or just standing, the soleus is activated more.
It should also be noted that you cannot change the shape of your calves by the way that you do an exercise. It doesn’t matter how you position your toes while doing a calf raise.
What Is A Calf Machine Anyways?
A calf machine is a weight training implement that is specifically designed to isolate and work the calf muscles. The majority of home use calf machines are seated calf raises. With this machine you sit on a seat with a pad over your upper legs. This pad is connected to a weight stack. Your feet are positioned on a platform that allows you to lift and lower your calf muscles. Most home use calf raise machines work with weight plates that you have to load onto a centrally located pin. You will need to buy the weight plates separately.
You can also buy standing calf machines for home use, though these are more commonly added as an extra station on a multigym. There are also calf blocks that can be purchased. These simply consist of a platform without any weight attached that you can perform a non weighted calf raise. These are best for stretching and working the soleus rather than the gastrocnemius.
Who Should Use a Calf Machine?
Calf Machines are beneficial for everyone. The stronger your calves, the faster and stronger your lower body will be. If you are a bodybuilder or anyone who is working to develop a body that looks good on the beach, then you will also want to work your calves regularly and hard. Well developed calves are an immediate sign of overall strength and power.
How To Use A Calf Machine
Ideal Range of Motion & Foot Positioning
Many people make the mistake of using too short a range of motion when training their calves. Often you see guys who are really just bouncing up and down rather than extending and contracting the muscle. The main problem is that people fail to take their heels down low enough to attain a full stretch. They also don’t go up high enough. The major reason that they do this is that the weight is too heavy. Never make the mistake of overloading the machine to the extent that you are only moving through 20 percent of the muscle’s full range of motion.
Placing only the forefoot on the calf block allows you to drop down lower than the balls of your feet. Use a lower weight if you have to in order to get a full range of motion.
When It comes to foot positioning, you do not want to only have your toes on the calf block. If you did you would be at an ergonomic disadvantage. You wouldn’t hold a dumbbell with only your fingertips, so why would you try to do calf raises with just your toes on the platform? Make sure that the ball of your foot is on the platform. This will allow you to exert the most pushing force. Because the samoid bone that forms the ball of your feet is diagonal, you should have a slight inward angle of the toes, with the heel on an outward angle. This will allow you to maintain the best grip on the calf block throughout your set.
If you find that your feet begin to slip off the calf block while you are performing a set, simply pause and reposition them mid set.
How Much Weight Should I Use On Calf Raises
As we noted at the outset, you need to work your calves hard in order to shock them to respond. There are two ways you can do this:
Using High Reps
Using Heavy Weight
In terms of calves, high reps means working within a 20-50 rep range. Heavy weight calf training means training within 80-90 percent of a person’s one rep max. This will require low reps of between 4-10.
Make sure that you do not compromise proper form for heavy weight. Be sure to use full range of motion. When performing the seated calf raise exercise, you should be resting the balls of your feet on the platform and raising up to full extension before lowering your heels all the way down for full calf extension.
What’s Important In A Calf Machine
Calf Machine Buyer’s Guide
A calf machine is a pretty simple device. However, there are still a number of things you should look out for to make sure that you end up with a quality piece of equipment:
If you are buying a seated calf raise machine, make sure that you can adjust the height setting of the pad that sits on top of your quads. This will allow you to get just the right ergonomic positioning to provide a full range of extension on the calf raise. It will also allow you to get the right distancing for your thighs to set with being squashed by the pad.
The distance between the weight plate and your knees should also be adjustable. This is especially important for taller people, who will find that their knees are banging into the weight pin as they do their reps.
The pin that holds the plates should be centrally located to ensure proper balancing. It should also have the proper diameter to fit the weight that you intend to use it with. Be careful not to buy a calf raise machine with a 2 inch diameter pin (designed for Olympic plates) if you only have standard 1 inch weight plates in your home gym. If you’ve got only Olympic plates and you buy a machine with a standard 1-inch diameter pin, you will have to deal with the weights sliding around as you use them. You can, however, buy a sleeve adapter which converts an Olympic plate to a standard diameter width. Some machines, such as our top rated Deltech seated calf raise machine, provide you with a complementary sleeve adapter with your purchase.
You will be loading up your calf machine with some heavy weight, so you need it to be solid. It should be constructed from heavy gauge square steel and have thick padding with double stitched, vinyl or leather upholstery that is sweat, slip and odor resistant.
We have already mentioned several times that you need to load up your calf machine with some decent poundage in order to sufficiently stimulate your calf muscles. For that to happen the machine needs to be able to handle that sort of weight. If you are using 45 pound plates, you should expect for your machine to be able to handle ten of them. That equates to 450 pounds, which is a good max user capacity baseline to expect.
WarrantyYou should expect your calf machine to provide you with reliable service for many years to come. Expect a warranty of around 10 years on the frame, with an extra 12-24 months on the
Top 5 Calf Machines Reviewed
Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Raise Machine
The Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Raise Machine is another solid, durable machine that will provide you with many years of reliable service. There are a couple of aspects to this machine that sets it apart from the competition. The first is that the calf raise bar is round rather than square, which can allow for multiple angels. This allows for more direct stimulation of the gastrocnemius. The second is a bit more obvious....YOU CAN SQUAT AS WELL. That's right, this is a proper 2 in 1.
The second is that you can load up to 800 lbs. You read that right. If you want calves the size of boulders, the ability to load up a small car worth of weight can help.
The Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Raise Machine is made from 12 gauge 3 x 3 inch steel framing. That makes it a commercial gym quality piece of home gym equipment. The shoulder and back pads are specifically designed to conform to your body. This allows maximum force delivered to the platform without being uncomfortable.
The horizontal weight plate holders are designed to take 2 inch Olympic plates. This means that your standard plates will not work on this machine.
The Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Raise Machine has dimensions of 62 x 43 x 56 inches and weighs 170 pounds.
The warranty on this seated calf machine is impressive, providing you with lifetime cover.
Rounded calf block
Lifetime frame warranty
Your calves will no longer fit in your pants
Deltech Seated Calf Raise Machine
The Deltech Fitness Seated Calf Raise machine provides buyers with a great blend of strength, durability, value for money and functionality. It is that combination that has propelled it to the top of our list of the best calf machines. The frame of this machine is made from heavy gauge 3 x 2 inch square steel and finished in a scratch resistant powder coat.
A feature that we really like with this machine is that it is built to take the standard 1-inch diameter plates, while also coming with an adapter for Olympic plates. That could be a game changer for many people who have standard weight plates in their garage home gym!
The Deltech seated calf machine has an adjustable thigh pad to allow you to get the ideal comfort and positioning before you start repping away. This is done with a handy pull pin that you can operate while seated on the machine. Slip resistant rubber on the calf block helps to keep your feet firmly in place when you are doing your reps.
The padding on the Deltech seated calf raise machine is made of high density foam with a vinyl seat resistant upholstery cover. This machine has dimensions of 47 x 19 x 36 inches and weighs in at 66 pounds.
Fits both 1 inch and 2 inch diameter weight plates
Solid steel frame
Adjustable thigh pad
Slip resistant calf block
Not suited for taller users (over 6’1”)
XMark Seated Calf Machine
The XMark Seated Calf Machine is a compact, solid, functional machine that does everything that a calf raise machine should do at an affordable price. It is made from 11-gauge 2 x 3 inch square steel tubing. That provides you with commercial gym grade equivalent strength and durability.
The baked powder coat finish of this calf machine makes it scratch resistant. Your comfort is assured thanks to thick foam padding covered with sturdy Duracraft vinyl that is sweat and slip resistant. Unlike many calf machine pads, these ones do not deform under the weight of your body.
The calf block on this machine is covered with a slip resistant rubberized material. This helps to keep your feet from slipping off the block half way through your set. This machine is fully adjustable. You can customize the height of the thigh pad to allow for your height as well as the length of the extension bar to make sure that it doesn’t interfere with your knees during the rep.
The XMark XM-7613 features a pair of horizontal weight pins that are designed to take 2-inch diameter Olympic weight plates. The max weight capacity of the machine is 450 pounds, which is the equivalent of ten 45 pound Olympic plates.
This calf raise machine has dimensions of 47.6 x 22.1 x 42.5 inches and weighs in at 82 pounds.
450 pound weight capacity
Slip resistant calf block
Only takes Olympic plate
Valor Fitness CC-5 Seated Calf Machine
The Valor Fitness CC-5 Seated Calf Raise Machine is the most impressive looking of the 5 seated calf raise machines on this page. It is made from 12 gauge steel square framing with dimensions of 2 x3 inches.
The horizontal arm of this machine is adjustable to 5 different horizontal and six vertical positions, making it ideal for taller and shorter than normal users. The diamond plated footprints are angled to provide ideal ergonomic foot positioning.
The horizontal weight sleeves on the Valor Fitness seated calf raise machine are made from chrome plated steel. They have a maximum weight rating of 350 pounds. This machine is designed to be used by 2-inch Olympic weight plates. These sleeves, however, can be replaced so that you can also use your standard 1-inch plates, even though they will fit loosely.
If you are going to be keeping your calf machine in a set position in your garage gym, you can bolt it to the floor. The dimensions of this calf raise are 51 x 24.5 x 36 inches. The unit weighs 80 pounds.
The seat pad on this machine is tapered for comfort and features 2.25 inch thick foam padding and double stitched vinyl upholstery. The knee pad features a similar level of padding, making for a comfortable overall calf training experience.
Takes both 1-inch and 2-inch plates
Can be bolted to the floor
Tapered seat pad
Max weight capacity of just 350 lbs, harder to built HUGE calves
Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise Machine
he Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise Machine, while being the most compact and slimline of the five calf raise machines reviewed here, has the highest weight capacity at 500 lbs. This makes it ideal for heavy training. The 3 to 1 weight ratio thanks to the extended weight carriage provides you with an even heavier weight capacity.
This seated calf raise machine provides you with an angled calf block for better ergonomics. The non slip surface of the calf block will keep your feet securely in place. The machine measures 41 x 21 x 23 inches and weighs in at a relatively light 44 pounds. The rolling pads that sit on top of your quads are adjustable to allow for ideal comfort. The weight activation bar on this machine is also conveniently located so that you can grab it while seated in position.
This machine is designed to be used with a standard weight plate. It will not fit Olympic weight plates. The frame warranty on the Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise machine is 10 years on the frame, with 12 months cover on the parts.
500 lb weight capacity
Angled calf block
3 to 1 weight ratio
10 year frame warranty
Does not take 2-inch Olympic plates
To develop impressive calves, you need to work them hard and often.
Having a calf raise machine at home will allow you to do exactly that. The best calf raise machine to buy for your home is the Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Machine, which provides you with a maximum weight capacity of 800 pounds, and has the best of both worlds for squatting and calf raises. However, it is large and expensive. Our second favorite calf raise machine is the XMark Seated Calf Raise Machine, with its solid frame and high level of padding. Rounding out our top three calf raise machines for home use is the Body Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise machine which features an angled calf block, a 3:1 weight ratio and 10 year frame warranty.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully by now you’ve got a good idea which is the best Calf Machine. Be sure to check out our overview of stretching machines, which you'll definitely need after 500 sets of calf raises.
If you have any questions regarding anything we’ve discussed in this article, or even have any you’d like to suggest, please feel free to get in touch in the comment section below.
Thanks for stopping by.