The donkey calf raise is one of those exercises that looks as silly as it sounds. It used to be an old-school bodybuilding favorite but has, thankfully, fallen out of favor in all but the most hardcore circles. To perform this exercise, you stand on the edge of a sturdy step, bend over from the hips and place your hands on a conveniently placed exercise bench. You then invite your training partner to sit astride your lower back to provide resistance. Rise up onto your tip toes and then lower your heels as far down as you can as many times as the weight of your partner allows. Needless to say, there are numerous less peculiar ways to train your calf muscles.
As an alternative to donkey calf raises, try a resistance machine that targets the calves, such as the standing calf raise and the seated calf raise. While both exercises target your calves, the standing version emphasizes your gastrocnemius, or upper calf, while the seated version targets your soleus, or lower calf muscle. Use both machines in your workouts to fully develop your calf muscles.
You can perform standing calf raises using just your body weight if you want an equipment-free calf workout, but there are other exercises for your calves that are equally effective. Walking on tiptoes for distance or time is a good calf exercise and one that was sometimes called goose stepping by old-school bodybuilders. Plie squats, a wide-stance exercise where you rise up onto your toes as you bend your knees, also works your calves effectively. Simply jumping up and down on your tiptoes, called ankle jumps, is another simple way to work your calves.
Walking and Running on Sand
Walking or running on sand can give your calves a great workout, especially if you walk or run up sand dunes. The shifting sand means you have to really work hard to drive yourself forward and this involves pointing your toes hard, the main function of your calves. In addition, walking and running on sand uses more energy than doing the same activity on concrete, so not only will these exercise options tone and strengthen your lower legs, but they will also help you to get more lean and fit.
Jumping rope is an effective way to exercise your calves. To make rope jumping as calf-centric as possible, keep your ankles together, stay on the balls of your feet and don't allow your heels to touch the floor. You can make this even more challenging by hopping on one leg at a time. In addition to being an effective calf exercise and viable donkey calf raise alternative, jumping rope also strengthens your cardiovascular system, improves your coordination and is a useful fat-burning exercise.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.