One of the absolute best overall calf muscle exercises is the squat raise.
The squat raise is a relatively unknown exercise for building the calves.
Calves were always a weakness of mine as I had very skinny legs even with a few years of experience with weight lifting.
I decided to put forth a much higher effort towards building calves once my upper body and thighs started growing. This growth made my calves look even smaller.
Many years ago I implemented squat raises as a part of my calf building routine, and I can say with confidence that squat raises are one of the reasons I have much larger calves now.
I've built more than 3 inches onto my calves using squat raises over the years.
There are many issues with doing squat raises, though. I will discuss these today and give you a few weight lifting techniques that help you do squat raises effectively.
What Are Squat Raises Exactly?
Squat raises are calf raises in the lowest squat position possible.
So this means you squat down with your hamstrings resting against your calves and do calf raises.
Have you ever seen anyone doing this weight lifting exercise? Most likely you have not as this is not a very popular exercise.
I'm not sure why it isn't a popular calf building exercise.
You are working your calves very well with this exercise, and you're going to see amazing muscle gains with this exercise.
Adding Weight Is Difficult
One of the big issues with squat raises is safely adding heavy amounts of weight to this exercise.
When you're in the lowest squat position, it's tough to balance yourself while doing calf raises. Try it now with no weight at all. Just balancing is difficult until you get accustomed to the movement.
Imagine squatting down with a heavy barbell on your back and trying to perform calf raises with the heavy weight on your back.
It's nearly impossible to do.
Even if you are able to do this, it's very dangerous trying to squat upwards after you've worked your calves hard and they are burning.
You can easily injure yourself trying to use this method so I definitely do not recommend trying to do squat raises with a heavy barbell on your back.
Another technique is to place the barbell on your thighs and attempt to do squat raises. This is a much safer method, but it still has issues.
Imagine trying to get the heavy weight off your thighs when you're finished with the exercise.
It's difficult. I used this method for many months and actually damaged my chin up and dip station trying to get a very heavy barbell off my thighs when I finished this exercise. Again, this is very dangerous too.
I've tried other things such as two dumbbells on my thighs, using a Smith machine, and even resistance bands. Nothing works as well as the technique I'm going to tell you about next.
Use a Cable System
I highly recommend a cable system built into the power rack you choose for your home gym.
I found a power rack with a cable system and smith machine many years ago at a local Dick's Sporting Goods for $700 or so if I remember that correctly. I think it was sometime after Christmas so it was on clearance too.
I use one side of the cable system with the pulley moved as far down as possible.
I then place one of my many calf blocks directly in front of the pulley and use a straight handle bar with the cable system.
I then squat down on my calf block and place the straight bar on my lower thighs above my knees.
Then I proceed to do squat raises. This is the safest way to do squat raises. And it's very easy to add weight over time to this exercise. Hundreds of pounds can be added safely to squat raises using a cable system.
Please remember that adding heavier weight over time is the key to building muscle.
You always have to find a safe way to add progressive resistance and the best way to do this with squat raises is a cable system.
I think I have the answer for why squat raises are not a popular exercise. Without a cable system, the exercise isn't very easy to perform safely.
If you have a cable system, you now have a way to implement this amazing calf exercise.