Have you ever seen the legs of a dancer? They are incredibly toned and strong from years of dancing on their toes.
If ballet isn’t quite your thing, don’t worry. You can get an amazing set of calves by working out at the gym. With this easy plan you’ll be rocking a mini skirt and heels to show off those sexy, strong calves.
As you scroll down the page, you’ll see our 30 perfect calves image gallery. But before jumping straight in, we’ll show you how to get sexy calves with our effective calf workouts for women.
Best Calf Exercises for Women: Good Routines, Great Results
Most women focus on their upper legs and skip working their lower legs. But, don’t! Toned calf muscles will strengthen your legs, give them the definition you want, and give them more shape to make your legs look even longer. It’s time to carve out a set of sexy calves at the gym with our best calf exercises.
How to Get Toned, Lean Calves
Your calves are comprised of two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the large fleshy muscle at the back of your lower leg that functions to lift your heel. The soleus is a smaller muscle that lives under your gastrocnemius. When your legs are straight, your soleus is inactive but when you flex your knee, bingo! The soleus is activated when you need the extra strength and support like when you’re running — or when you’re sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream on your lap and you need to get it a little closer to your face.
Many people, especially women, have tight calves. Blame it on the high heels and desk jobs — that continuous shortening of the muscle and time spent being sedentary can play a huge role in shortening and tightening your calves. Running and other forms of exercise can also create tight calves. As you start to work your calves harder, it’s important to stretch them at least once a day but, ideally, you should stretch your calves several times throughout the day.
Expert Tip: To stretch your calves, place your toes on the edge of a stair and gently drop your heel towards the floor. Don’t force it. You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle and the bottom of your foot. Hold for about 20-30 seconds and switch legs. Bend you knee and repeat the stretch to target your soleus muscle.
Exercises to Get Beautiful, Toned Calves
Calf raises are one of the best calf exercises to strengthen and tone your calves. But, the good news is, cardio, like stair climbing and jump rope, provide a calves workout and can also help tone your calves!
Jump roping requires you to stand on your toes, which gives your calf muscles one heck of a workout. Not to mention, 30 minutes of jump rope burns about 350 calories. That’s equivalent to about an hour of running!
Calf exercises for women are easy to add to any strength training program. Just do the following calf-shaping exercises 2-3 times a week for about four weeks and you’ll see slimmer and firmer calves in no time.
What’s one of the best calf workouts? Jumping rope. Yes, you probably did it in grade school but it’s time to bring it back — get in your cardio while toning your calves and warming up. Focus on using your calf muscles to propel you upward. You can vary between short, quick jumps and high, powerful jumps that get you up there. If you find jumping rope to be tedious, bring back some of those sweet tricks you did on the playground or throw in some double unders — they’re always a good time.
Fun fact: Kate Hudson jumps rope like a boss. No jump rope? No problem, just jump up and down in place. If you really want to feel the burn, try squat jumps for a smokin’ calves workout that will strengthen not only your calves but your thighs and glutes too — oh, and they’ll also do a number on your heart and lungs, which means they’ll also torch some of that extra fat you can’t seem to get rid of.
Weighted Calf Raises
Next on the list of best calf exercises is the calf raise. Calf raises on a step or stair primarily work your gastrocnemius muscle. Start by standing on the balls of your feet. Hold onto the wall or railing for balance. Slowly lower your heels towards the floor until you can’t go any further. Slowly raise up onto the balls of your feet. Pause and lower back down.
To ensure you target all aspects of your legs and get a solid calf workout, use different angles while lifting your heels. For example, perform 10 calf raises with your feet pointing straight ahead then rotate them outward/inward 45 degrees. Working through every range of motion will guarantee a set of nicely sculpted calves.
Expert Tip: Perform calf raises on the edge of a stair or low box to move your heel through a greater range of motion and further challenge your calves.
Seated Calf Raises
Seated calf raises primarily work your soleus muscle. You can either use a machine or dumbbells for this exercise (or the bowl of ice cream we talked about earlier). If you use weights, sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Place a dumbbell in each hand and hold one on top of each knee. Slowly squeeze your calf muscle as you raise up onto the balls of your feet. Pause and slowly return back to the start position. Repeat.
Do 3-4 sets of 12 reps of each exercises at least 2-3 times a week with your other strength training exercises. Remember to add some calf-shaping cardio, like jump roping or hill running, afterward to really blast those calves into shape.
Expert Tip: For seated calf raises use, at minimum, 10 lb. dumbbells. Your calves are strong so don’t be afraid to push yourself with more weight.
Stretching Your Calves
After you finish all your calf exercises, make sure you stretch! All calf workouts should end with a nice deep stretch. Stretching is extremely important for keeping your muscles long, lean, and healthy and can also prevent other nasty side-effects like knee, hip and back pain. Because the two muscles in your calves work differently, they also need to be stretched differently. The leg needs to be straight to stretch the gastrocnemius, but to isolate the soleus you need to stretch the calf with your knee bent. So, for best results, perform a 30 second calf stretch on each calf with your leg straight and again with it bent.
One of our favorite ways to stretch our calves is with downward dog. It not only gives you a solid calf stretch, it also hits your hamstrings, which also have a tendency to be chronically tight. Moving your feet in a pedaling action while holding the pose (alternately lifting one heel off the floor at a time) will give you a more intense calf stretch. Just remember to keep breathing and don’t force the stretch — you don’t want a pulled calf muscle!
Remember to stretch your calves several times throughout the day. If you’re looking for an inexpensive stretching tool, buy a water noodle, cut it into several one-foot pieces and place them around your house — take one to work too. Throughout the day whenever you think about it, place the ball of your foot on the noodle, press down and lean into your heel to stretch your calves. You and your calves will feel amazing.
Need some inspiration? Scroll through the slideshow to get more expert tips for getting killer calves, just like your favorite celebs!
1. Aly Raisman
The gymnast never seems to miss a beat, whether it’s with style or grace, and has been showing off her toned physique while winning metals at the Olympics for years!
2. Vanessa Hudgens
This fitness lover enjoys rocking what she’s got, including her incredibly toned calves. Wanna know how to get a body like this babe’s? Pilates, SoulCycle, or yoga are her go-to calf workouts.
3. Jessica Simpson
The blonde bombshell has been in the spotlight for her weight one too many times, but now the mother of two is showing off her best self yet, including her flat stomach, and super-toned legs and calves in her new activewear line. Never letting the critics get to her, she proves the best way to get fit is self-confidence.
“I work out an hour a day. That’s all you need — the rest of it’s all about how you eat,” explains Ciara. “When I train with Gunnar [Peterson], we do a mix of plyometric moving and weight training because you want a good balance of cardio, while still maintaining your muscle.”
5. Reese Witherspoon
A timeless beauty, Witherspoon owes her muscular calves to her favorite calves workout — running.
6. Michelle Lewin
This fitness beauty proves muscular legs and calves don’t make you look masculine, just sexy!
7. Carrie Underwood
The country superstar says the best way to get in shape involves high-intensity cardio, as well as strength-training exercises like jump squats and lunges. All awesome calf exercises for women!
8. Kendall Jenner
The model and reality TV star’s long, sexy thighs and sculpted calves are flaunted regularly—and for good reason!
9. Gigi Hadid
Her strong and muscular legs have gone down more runways than we can count. Hadid is a big fan of boxing to stay in shape.
10. Blake Lively
When she’s not training to fight off a shark, Lively’s ideal exercise routine is all about what feels good, whether it’s going for a bike ride, a run, or playing games with friends.
11. Stacy Keibler
From her flat and fabulous midsection to her sexy set of calves, the former WWE wrestler loves to stay in shape by doing pilates with instructor, Nonna Gleyzer.
12. Nina Dobrev
The actress is a former competitive gymnast, and her inner athlete lives on. “When I work out, I feel happy, confident, and accomplished,” she says.
13. Lea Michele
When it comes to fit inspiration, Lea Michele’s Instagram is the ideal page to check out. She’s a big fan of hiking and yoga, and her beautiful, toned physique proves that her workout programs are paying off!
14. Kerri Walsh Jennings
Known for her long legs, Walsh Jenning has been dubbed “Six Feet of Sunshine.” Her no-excuses attitude is indubitably inspiring. She told CBS News, “I’ve been working this whole year to try and be a morning person and it’s so hard,” she said. “But that being said, I’m a mommy. If you wake me up at four in the morning to play, I’m gonna be ready.”
15. Charlize Theron
Before making a career as an actress, Theron studied at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. She still enjoys ballet as part of her exercise regimen, which involves a lot of calf-work, ensuring you tone up and slim them down quickly once you start.
16. Gwyneth Paltrow
Paltrow is committed to her health, including keeping her body toned. The actress is a big advocate for the 30 day squat challenge, which includes dance cardio that burns calf fat fast.
17. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
This muscular model is a fitness freak. For toning up her calves fast, she recommends adding skipping into your workout plans.
18. Zoe Saldana
To get in shape fast for her role in the action flick Colombiana, Saldana incorporated the resistance band into her squats and lunges to target her calves.
19. Nina Williams
If you want to burn fat quickly while toning up your calves, try climbing!
20. Hayden Panettiere
This beauty is a big fan of tennis, which is great for getting the calves in great shape quickly.
21. Kristin Cavallari
The reality star turned entrepreneur tones her calves with the single leg step up move — obviously one of the best calf exercises for women. You simply stand facing a bench or step, about a foot away, with feet hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand with arms at your sides. To start, step your left foot on the bench, then push into your left leg to stand, keeping your right leg off of bench. Slowly lower to starting position to complete 1 rep. Do 10-12 reps, then switch sides. Aim for 3 sets total.
22. Katy Perry
Perry loves to cycle, which is great for building muscular calves. Try a spin class and see for yourself!
23. Ana Cozar
If you want a lot of muscle to complement your feminine side, this fitness model’s workout plans are ideal for you. She knows how to tone the body up without making it appear overly masculine. Check out one of her leg routines here.
24. Heather Graham
“I’m obsessed with yoga. For fun, I would go on a yoga retreat and do four hours of yoga a day. And then I do pilates. I also like going out dancing,” the starlet says. Try Downward Dog to strengthen your calves.
25. Zendaya This actress, singer, and dancer is famous for her long lean legs. She’s all about embracing your natural body too after a magazine slimmed down her thighs she spoke out on Instagram: “These are the things that make women self-conscious. That create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have.”
26. Misty Copeland
Ballerina Misty Copeland may only be 5’2″, but she certainly has legs for days. The exercise is incredible for the calves. Want to try a modern take? Barre Workouts are where it’s at. Hello calves!
28. Cassey Ho
The Pilates princess is a YouTube sensation, providing fans with a plethora of fitness tips and routines to choose from. If you love Pilates, be sure to add Plie Calf Raises to your repertoire.
29. Jessica Alba
30. Rachel Brathen
Also known as “Yoga Girl,” this Instagram sensation is an international yoga teacher residing in Aruba. Stretching the calves works to lengthen the muscles and keeps them from appearing bulky. Want to know how to get calves like Brathen? Try these yoga poses to get you started.