The Best Calf Exercise

See What The Studies Say

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a big advocate of donkey calf raises for increasing muscle growth of the calves – we’re sure you’ve seen the classic black-and-white photos of Arnold and crew at the original Gold’s Venice, on each other’s backs before most gyms had an actual donkey calf raise machine.

THE BEST CALF EXERCISE - See What The Studies Say

As it turns out, there was good reason for it. In a study of electrical activation of the calf muscle in response to different exercise, the donkey calf raise turned out to be the king of exercises for working the calves. Electromyography (EMG) is a tool used by scientists which measures the electrical activity of the muscles and shows how much the muscles work during specific exercises. Scientists record EMG by placing electrodes over a muscle belly, and the harder the muscle works, the greater the electricity measured on the EMG. Using EMG on key muscle groups, scientists can determine which exercises are best for activating muscles and building size, strength and definition.

We recommend incorporating a variety of exercises when training your calves in order to hit them from every angle, of course. But, based on the results below, you’ll want to include Donkey Calf Raises more often than not.

EMG Activity of Calf Exercises

Donkey Calf Raises 80%
Standing One-leg Calf Raises 79%
Standing Two-leg Calf Raises 68%
Seated Calf Raises 61%