Donkey Calf Raises May Be the Answer to Your Lagging Calves

Donkey Calf Raises May Be the Answer to Your Lagging Calves

So you got some weak calves, bro. The good news is, donkey calf raises may be the answer to your lagging calves.

Before we jump into what donkey calf raises are, let’s go over the fundamentals of how the calf works and what they respond do in regards to trying to grow them.

How the Calf Works

As you know, the calf is on the back of the lower leg. What you may not know is there are two muscles that make up the calf.

Related - How to Get Big Calves

The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle and it forms the visible bulge. There are two heads and they create a diamond shape.

The soleus is a smaller muscle that is flat and lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle.

The calf raises our heels when we walk, run, jump, or exercise.

How the Calf Grows

In order for you to grow your calf, you’re going to have to perform some movements that allow your heel to move up and down. You can perform calf raises standing on flat ground, stand on something and get more of a stretch, or a seated or standing calf machine.

Calves are a sore subject for those who seem to skip leg day. They blame it on genetics or something.

The name of this muscle comes from the Greek γαστήρ (gaster) "belly or stomach" and κνήμη (knḗmē) "leg"; meaning "stomach of leg.” This is a new fact to me — I’ve had to type gastrocnemius so many times but never looked it up.

We use our calves every day when we walk, so it is important to raise the intensity on your calf workouts.

Performing proper calf raises involves using heavier weights with a full range of motion. You’re going to want to explode the weight up, and you’re going to want to perform higher rep sets. Anything from eight to 15 reps works well. You could also add in a 20+ rep burnout set at the end.

The idea is to get quality contractions with the longest range of motion that you can safely perform. Train them twice per week and quit skipping leg day.

Meet Donkey Calf Raises

While calf raises are one of the better exercises to build some impressive calves, you have to try these donkey calf raises.

Donkey calf raises are a tweaked version of the classic exercise… and it works even better. The great Arnold liked to perform this exercise while piling multiple meatheads onto his back for extra weight.

If you are looking for an easier way to add weight, you can use a weight belt and hook some plates to it.

Performing Donkey Calf Raises

Go ahead and position your feet on a low step and hinge at your hips while you perform calf raises instead of standing up straight to do these.

That hip hinge adds even more of a stretch to the gastrocnemius. This added stress is going to add more growth.

Perform these with your bodyweight for 15 to 20 rep sets at first — once you add weight you can start an eight to 15 rep range per set. After these have become easy, adding a weight belt or having one of your bros jump on your back is your next step.

Donkey Calf Variations

Want to put more emphasis on your soleus muscle? Try doing donkey calf raises with your knees bent.

Add more resistance by performing them one leg at a time.

Don’t be afraid to add in the options above along with standing and seated calf raises.

Bonus Calf Workout

So maybe you’ve neglected your calves because you really don’t know what to do.

Here is a bonus calf workout you can perform anywhere — all with just bodyweight. You can add weight if you’d like, but it isn’t needed to start.

  • Box Jumps or Vertical Jumps - If you have something to jump up onto, great. If not, jump as high as you can. Perform two sets of three jumps as high as you possibly can.
  • Walking Lunge With Calf Raise - Perform walking lunges and be sure to push off of your back leg and get a great calf contraction. Bonus points if you can perform walking lunges on your tiptoes. Do three sets of 10 reps per leg.
  • Donkey Calf Raise - Perform three sets of 15 reps. Keep these fresh by trying different variations.
  • Standing Calf Raise - Perform three sets of 15 reps. Keep these fresh by trying different variations.

Workout Tips

You can do this routine on its own or add them to the end of another workout. If you are performing full body workouts, you can add this into the mix two to three times per week.

Keep your rest periods short. This is the time to push your calves hard and keep the intensity high.

Let your calves rest at least one day before you train them again. These muscles take a beating while we walk so allow your calves to get the rest they need — the recovery is where they grow.

Wrapping It Up

Your calves will grow if you work them. You can’t put half effort into this either — you train them all or nothing.

Make better food choices, lift heavy, and make some gains.

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