A squat calf raise is a fantastic exercise to include in your lower body workouts, offering a simple yet effective way to add progression to the humble squat.
The movement can be performed as a bodyweight exercise, or with the addition of weights (such as a barbell or dumbbells). This makes it versatile, adaptable and ideal to include in all sorts of at-home workouts. Whether you use it as part of your strength training routine, or as the primary exercise during a HIIT workout, squats with calf raises can help support a wide variety of fitness goals.
In this handy exercise guide, we outline everything you need to know about squat calf raises, including the benefits they bring, the muscles worked, and how to safely add progression to this movement.
How to Perform a Squat Calf Raise
- Start with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Keeping your back straight and chest up, bend at the knees to lower yourself into a squat.
- Push downwards to drive yourself back up to an upright position.
- As you straighten your legs, lift the heels of your feet off the floor by engaging your calves.
- Lower your heels down into the starting position.
- Repeat for repetitions.
Coach’s Tip – There’s no limitation on the squatting part of the movement. This means you can do all sorts of squats, from wide Sumo squat stances, to Plié Squats, whatever your preference is. Whichever style of squat you choose, remember that the movement should be controlled at all times. You’ll also find that with some squats like plié squats, you aren’t able to add as much resistance due to the stance requiring more balance.
Squat Calf Raise Benefits
Squat calf raises bring with them all the benefits of regular squats, plus some useful additional benefits too.
The squatting movement of the exercise engages the glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves, helping to build strength and tone these major muscle groups. By changing up the intensity, resistance and repetitions, you can use squats as more of a strength building exercise, or as part of a high intensity workout to burn calories.
By including a calf raise after each squat, you further engage your calves, forcing them to working harder during the exercise. This helps develop better calf definition, as well as the strength. If targeting your calves is a goal you’re working towards, this variation of the squat will double down on strengthening the calves during the exercise.
But the benefits of squat calf raises don’t just finish there… the movement is also fantastic at developing better balance, stability and overall body control.
By raising up on the balls of your feet, you’ll naturally feel slightly unbalanced, forcing your core and other stabilizing muscles to kick in and help provide the required balance to avoid falling over.
Particularly for over 50’s, this sort of movement is ideal to help develop fundamental fitness attributes that support healthy ageing.
Squat Calf Raise Muscles Worked
One of the reasons we love squat with calf raises is that the movement can so easily be adapted to vary up the difficulty. There are two easy ways to add progression to the exercise.
Adding resistance will undoubtedly make this exercise much more challenging. You can add resistance in different ways, depending on your preference.
Using a barbell with plates is a popular option. This would follow the same process as a regular squat with a barbell, followed by a calf raise. Your legs will feel the burn faster than with regular squats, especially in the calves, so bear that in mind when selecting your weights.
You’ll also find that raising up onto the balls of your feet holding the normal weight you can squat with a lot more challenging, so again, it’s best to start with a lighter weight so you can get used to the movement and balance.
You could also hold a pair of dumbbells, either by your side, or on your shoulders.
Or similarly, you could hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in a goblet squat position for the duration of the movement.
Use a Ledge/Step
Another way to add progression is to really focus on the calf raise.
By using a ledge, you can increase the extension of the calf raise as your heel can lower beyond the floor’s level.
To do this, all you need is some kind of step or ledge and stand on it with your heels extended beyond the edge. As you lower your heels down from the calf raise, you can increase this movement compared to if you had done it on the flate surface.
A word of warning… using a ledge for calf raises is quite common, however, it adds quite a significant amount of difficulty to the squatting movement. You basically have to squat on the balls of your feet for the whole movement. It will require much better balance and as a result, it won’t be recommended to add resistance to such a movement until you feel very confident.
If you don’t have any access to equipment, this is a great alternative to the regular squat that will definitely leave you feeling the burn in your quads and calves.
There are many ways to train your lower body, but the squat calf raise is a great exercise that can easily be adapted to suit your workout preferences and goals.
From adding resistance and using it as a primary way to build strength and power, to including it in a HIIT workout to help burn more calories and lose weight, squat calf raises are worth considering for your next fitness session!