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One-Leg Calf Raises

Is it the best lower-leg exercise?

After the 1980 Mr. Olympia in Australia I got to know Mike Mentzer. I was already friends with Boyer Coe’he bought one of my homes in Palm Springs from me, and we shared training tips. After the Olympia that year the three of us had something in common: We placed third, fourth and fifth behind Arnold, and we felt we didn’t get what we deserved. In protest we didn’t compete in the ’81 Olympia. Nothing much came of it except that I got to try one of Mike’s ideas. It was the one-legged calf raise.

I’d always considered calves to be one of my more challenging bodyparts. Everything else seemed to grow faster, especially my thighs. Since my thing was proportion, I felt my calves needed more development. Mike told me he did one-legged calf raises on the Nautilus multipurpose machine and liked it very much. Since I owned one, I thought I’d give it a try. So in ’81 I did the exercise every four days as my only calf movement.

It’s interesting to note that when the full line of Nautilus machines was introduced in the early ’70s, there was no calf machine. Arthur Jones claimed that all you needed was the one-legged calf raise, and the multi machine was the perfect piece of equipment for it. Put the belt around your waist, stand on the rubber-coated lower step, lean slightly forward at the waist, and do your reps. Balancing on one foot put stress on the inner- and outer-calf areas. I liked the idea because I knew how effective dumbbell training was for the upper body’it was a balancing act.

One-legged calf raises were like dumbbell training for the calves. If you didn’t have access to a multi machine, you had to hold a dumbbell in one hand, which I never liked because it was harder to balance. Since then I’ve found another way to do the exercise’with the Leg Blaster. Your hands are free to hold on to something for balance, and it’s easy to do good calf raises of the two- or one-legged variety. And since the weights are loaded out toward your sides, you have a low center of gravity with less compression on the shoulders and spine (that’s one thing I always hated about conventional calf machines’the weight pressing straight down on your shoulders).

So I began my calf workouts with a set of 25 reps for each leg with no weight and then began adding weight to the weight stack, with the belt around my waist. I’d work my way up in weight, doing fewer reps on successive sets, with about six to eight sets per workout. At the end of one month I was doing 12 reps with each leg using 170 pounds, and my calves grew five-eighths of an inch. Not bad considering how stubborn my calves are.

I’ve done other productive calf routines in my 48 years of training, and I describe them in the winter ’04 issue of my publication Building the Body Quarterly. The above routine was one of the best. IM

Editor’s note: For information about Zane’s goods and services, visit, or write to him at P.O. Box 4088, La Mesa, CA 91944.

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