How To Do Donkey Calf Raises Properly

If you’ve been doing standing calf raises for so long that they are starting to bore you to death, it may be time to try out the donkey calf raises.

Donkey calf raises are a bodyweight exercise that targets the two major calf muscles on your lower legs.

Required equipment: Bench (or any other sturdy object), step platform


  • Place the step platform a few steps behind you
  • Stand in front of the bench and adjust it to waist height. If you are not using a bench, make sure whatever you are using is at waist height.
  • Hold on to the bench and take a few steps backward, onto the step platform.
  • Hinge at your waist to bend your body over, and hold on to the bench. Your back should be parallel to the ground.
  • Tighten your core.
  • Slowly and with control, lift your heels off the platform so that you are standing on your toes.
  • Squeeze the calves as hard as you can and hold this position for a few seconds.
  • Lower your heels back onto the platform and then repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

To maximize on your gains, try to complete 3-4 sets of 15-25 reps each.


This exercise particularly targets the muscles on the back of your lower leg, specifically the gastrocnemius muscle which runs down your leg, and the soleus muscle which is located near the Achilles tendon.

Other muscle groups this exercise works are the abs and hamstrings.

When you bend to initiate the movement, you stretch the hamstrings on your thighs.

Additionally, the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis muscles are activated during this movement to help with stabilizing your midsection.



For most people, the process of building calves can be quite difficult. That, of course, could be the case if you haven’t yet discovered donkey calf raises.

By working your calves from your stretched position, this exercise activates and builds muscle mass in your calves, giving you those big calves you’re looking to develop.


Unlike standing calf raises, donkey calf raises target your calf muscles from a stretched position.

This increases the muscle activation in your calves, which ultimately leads to more strength gains.


By strengthening your calf muscles, donkey calf raises can help stabilize your ankles to protect you from lower leg injury.


Your calf muscles are responsible for plantar tension and knee flexion.

Strengthening and building these muscles by doing donkey calf raises can help improve your performance in exercises that require explosive power such as jumping and sprinting.



This exercise is another fantastic way to get a good stretch to your calves if you don’t want to do the donkey calf raise.

  • Start by standing with your feet close together.
  • Bend at your waist to lean over such that your hands are pointing towards the ground.
  • Lift your heels off the floor and move your torso forward as you squeeze your calves.
  • At the top position, contract your calves again until you feel them stretching.
  • Slowly and with control, return to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you desire.


The seated dumbbell calf raise also works your calf muscles, but it tends to focus more on the soleus muscle than the gastrocnemius muscle.

Also, unlike the donkey calf raise, you do it from a seated position and with the additional resistance of two dumbbells.


  • Sit on the edge of a bench or a chair, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Place each dumbbell vertically on top of your knees.
  • Tighten your core.
  • Contract your calves to lift your feet off the ground using your toes.
  • At the top position, squeeze your calves as hard as you can and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you desire.

All your motions should be done in a slow and controlled fashion for maximal results.


The calf squat is an equally effective way to isolate, strengthen, stretch and build your calf muscles.

  • Stand upright on a flat surface with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes turned out.
  • Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  • Tighten your core and straighten your back.
  • Slowly and with control, squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground and your knees are over your ankles.
  • Raise your right heel off the floor, and pulse your hips in an up and down motion.
  • Continue pulsing your hips for about 30 seconds before switching to the left side.



The effectiveness of this exercise depends on the amount of time your calves spend under tension.

Therefore, if you use momentum to perform it, you might not get the results you desire. Try using slow and controlled motions instead.


Most weight lifters tend to perform partial reps by pulsing up and down on their toes simultaneously.

What they don’t know is that the pulsing motion is a partial rep that cannot guarantee muscle and strength gains.

You should aim at raising your feet all the way up until you are on your toes, and contracting the calves for a few seconds before dropping your heels to the floor. This is the only way to do a complete rep.


Do not stand upright while performing a donkey calf raise; this could remove the tension and stretch from your calves, which minimizes the gains you are looking for.

Instead, keep your back parallel to the ground, making sure to feel a good stretch in your calves before you complete each rep.


Are bigger and stronger calves at the top of your fitness wish list? Look no further than donkey calf raises.

This movement will not only give you bigger and stronger calves, but also increase your explosive power and by extension, your ability to perform plyometric exercises.

Now that you know all there is to know about donkey calf raises, why don’t you go ahead and add them to your fitness program so you can start building those calves already!