How to Strengthen & Tone Your Calves

Jumping rope is a form of aerobics that tones calves.

Jumping rope is a form of aerobics that tones calves.

Shorts, capris, skirts, swimsuits—with all the exposure your calves receive, particularly during the warmer months, it's no wonder you want them strong and toned. The calves carry the burden of lugging your body weight for hours each day, so they demand extra TLC to keep them strong and ready to move. Engaged in targeted strength-training exercises to keep your calves looking and feeling as good as possible.

Items you will need

  • Dumbbells (optional)

Step 1

Perform single-leg squats. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and step forward with your right foot so the right heel is immediately in front of the left toes. Place all weight on right foot and use the toes of your left foot for balance. Bend forward at the hips while tightening your abdominal muscles to keep your spine straight. Bend both knees simultaneously until your right thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Push body weight into your right foot to raise to the starting position. Perform three sets of eight reps, and then switch legs.

Step 2

Do calf raises. Calf raises can be done with or without weights. If you use dumbbells, hold one dumbbell in each hand and allow your arms to drop to the sides of your body. Start by stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Rise slowly to your toes, hold for one to two seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position. Keep your knees straight and engage your abdominals to stabilize your spine. These can also be performed standing on the edge of a stair, but be sure there's always something to grab in case you lose your balance. Perform three sets of eight. If you perform calf raises without weights, increase the number of raises to three sets of 15.

Step 3

Start doing jump and reaches. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles and using a squat technique, begin lowering your hips backwards as if trying to sit in an invisible chair. Once your thighs are almost parallel to the floor, reach your arms behind you, swing them forward and overhead as you simultaneously push off the floor during the jump while fully extending your hips, knees and ankles. Your body should remain straight during the jump, starting at your fingers and ending at your toes. Perform six jumps.

Step 4

Perform 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. There are several aerobic activities that also tone your calf muscles, such as jogging, bicycling and swimming. Walking also strengthens the calf muscles, but you can increase the intensity of the workout by walking uphill or up several flights of stairs.


  • Increase the difficulty of the jump and reach by tucking your knees toward your chest as you jump in the air.
  • Do calf-strengthening exercises every other day to allow the muscles to recover between workouts.


  • Always consult with a doctor before performing new exercises, especially if you have a pre-existing injury or other medical condition.
  • Wear comfortable and supportive shoes while performing calf exercises. Failure to wear proper footwear increases your risk of injury.
  • Exercising tight muscles increases your risk of cramping and muscle strain. Warm-up stretches can reduce your risk of injury.

About the Author

Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.

Photo Credits

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