There’s no muscle more universally hated than the calves. The term chicken legs is well known by pretty much every person on the planet and most of the time this is in reference to the muscles of the lower leg. While the development of these muscles is mostly at the mercy of your genetics, training them directly could squeeze out some muscle you didn’t have before.
The most popular calf training method is using a dedicated machine built specifically for this purpose and today we’ve compiled what we believe to be the best calf raise machines on the market. They come in many shapes and designs and therefore allow us to train the calves in arguably the best way possible – to get a maximum stretch and contraction in the muscle.
Best Calf Raise Machines to Buy
Check out our top picks plus more useful calf training information.
- XMark Fitness XM-7613 Seated Calf Raise Machine – Buy Here
- Body-Solid GSCR349 Seated Calf Raise Machine – Buy Here
- TDS Leverage Calf and Squat Machine – Buy Here
- Powertec Fitness Leverage Calf and Squat Machine – Buy Here
- Deltech Fitness DF805 Seated Calf Raise Machine – Buy Here
1. XMark Fitness XM-7613 Seated Calf Raise Machine
XMark is one of our favorite brands and we’ve included many of their products in our reviews. There’s lots to like about the XM-7613 seated calf raise machine.
One thing we like is the swiveling thigh pads that can make training a lot more comfortable, natural feeling, and ergonomic for many. The machine has Olympic weight posts and textured non-slip foot rests to ensure safety and proper form. Firm and secure foot positioning is crucial especially when handling heavier loads. Improper footing can be dangerous to the joints and calf muscles.
The thigh pads are also adjustable which is ideal for people of different heights.
The XM-7613 has a common design that requires you to initially lift the weight up and move the support bar to the side so that the weight can lower for a full range of motion.
Dimensions: 47.6″ L x 22.1″ W x 42.5″ H
Weight: 80 pounds
- Solid and well built steel construction
- Swiveling thigh pads offer natural movement
- Large foot pads offer max stability
- Few complaints about with design/usability
About the brand
Taken from their site, “XMark products will grant you the finest return on each fitness investment.”
The brand takes big pride in knowing that it provides carefully and precisely crafted exercise equipment.
“Attention to detail was put into every aspect of our equipment, and their ergonomics are second to none.”
It’s not just about making products for them but rather, being responsive to customer needs.
2. Body-Solid GSCR349 Seated Calf Raise Machin
A very solid option for training your calves, the GSCR349 seated calf raise machine offers features the others we’ve reviewed do not.
For instance, one thing that stands out is the angled foot platforms that could help in reducing the stress on your feet.
It also comes with two assisting handles that you can use to help pull heavy weights up after you’ve hit failure on your sets. Then to use the machine you move the support bar over to get a deep stretch and contraction in your calf muscles.
The pads are also thick and solid and provide superior support and comfort while pillow block bearings ensure a smooth operation using heavy loads. The machine is designed using a 3:1 weight ratio which according to the description means any loaded weight will feel three times heavier.
While the GSCR349 is excellent for home use it also is for commercial use with its very high-quality design and functionality.
Weight post is 1″.
Dimensions: 47″L x 20″W x 39″H
Weight: 93 pounds
- Offers more features than other options we’ve included
- Rugged and quality design is made for both home and commercial use
- Angled foot platforms can relieve stress placed on the feet
- Has two assisting handles
- Comes with a lifetime warranty
- Pricey compared to the other seated options on this list
About the brand
Body-Solid makes affordable, yet high-quality products suitable for commercial and home use. The designs are straightforward and easy to adjust which provides a familiar and effective experience for all users.
3. TDS Leverage Calf and Squat Machine
While definitely on the pricier side compared to the previous options, The TDS leverage calf and squat machine is perfect for doing heavy calf raises plus you get the added bonus of a squat machine.
There’s a lot more you can do with this calf machine and it’s supposedly capable of supporting up to 1,000 pounds.
Aside from training your calves and doing variations that train your entire lower body it’s also great for doing gripless shoulder shrugs if big traps are your thing!
The machine is made using industrial grade pillow block bearings for best support during training plus it’s adjustable for heights up to 6’6′”.
Shoulder and back padding ensure a comfortable training session.
Dimensions: 58″L x 48″W x 60H
Weight: 210 pounds
- Calf and squat combo
- Versatile machine
- Great for heavy and explosive training
- Supports standard and Olympic weight plates
- Adjustable height for taller people
- Not affordable for everyone
- Will require more space to use
- Plate posts may not support the claimed 1,000 lbs
- Many complaints about paper instructions
- Quality may not be greatest
About the brand
TDS makes some of the best exercise equipment anywhere and their products are sold from the famous and massive 110,000 sq New York Barbell warehouse in Elmira, New York.
4. Powertec Fitness Leverage Calf and Squat Machine
This is the priciest machine on our list but definitely worth taking a look at if you want a calf and squat machine combo.
Like the machine from TDS you can do power exercises, squats, lunges, shrugs and more. It’s easy to operate and has a safety feature for added protection during heavy workouts.
To use the machine, you load the plates near the top.
Foot platform is angled to offer the best ergonomics and comfort allowing you to use the most weight and maximize your training.
The machine has a weight capacity of 500 lbs.
Dimensions: 55″L x 58″W x 61.6″H
- Good overall value
- Great for calf raises and various lower body exercises like squats, lunges, and more
- Solid and top-notch quality
- Priciest option compared to the others on this list
- May not be the most comfortable setup for taller people
- Have to buy standard 1″ weight adapters separately from site
About the brand
Powertec is a leader in innovative strength equipment. They’re headquartered in Southern California and have operations around the world including in the United States, Europe and Asia.
The products are designed for home and light commercial use.
Many of the world’s best use Powertec equipment.
5. Deltech Fitness DF805 Seated Calf Raise Machine
This option from Deltech seems to be a really good value and the cheapest on our list of best calf raise machines.
It’s a similar design to the XMark calf raise machine but not quite as fancy which is why it’s roughly half the cost.
The knee pads are pin-pull adjustable although they do not swivel and there are no assistance handles to pull on.
It does fit standard weight plates but also comes with an Olympic plate adapter which is nice. Another great feature is the single-piece footrest that should offer a solid experience.
If you do not have a lot to spend or prefer to not pay as much for a calf machine this is a great option. Keep in mind though, it won’t give you as much compared to our other picks.
Dimensions: 47″L x 19″W x 36″H
Weight: 66 pounds
- Most affordable option
- Option for Olympic and standard plates
- No assisting handle
- No swiveling knee support
About the brand
The mission of Deltech Fitness is to offer the best value in home exercise equipment. CEO Craig Hillis is an avid lifter who gets feedback from his team to ensure the equipment is up to par. According to the site their offerings are designed and developed in Louisville, Kentucky by “experienced lifters and expert fabricators”.
Anatomy of the Calves
Before we go any further, understanding the anatomy of the calves can help to maximize your training and progress.
Most people are probably oblivious to the fact that more than one muscle makes up the calves. That’s probably because of the gastrocnemius – the most superficial of the calf muscles that’s composed of two heads (medial and lateral head). When you flex your lower leg, it’s the gastrocnemius that appears to move up and down.
It crosses both the knee and ankle joint and therefore functions to both plantarflex (point the toes down) the ankle and flex the knee. However, it cannot generate equal force at both ends simultaneously. For example, it can either generate more force to flex the knee or plantarflex the ankle.
The soleus is a large, broad and flat calf muscle that sits deep to the gastrocnemius. It starts from below the knee and extends down the leg to form the Achilles tendon along with the gastrocnemius. It’s actually the larger calf muscle by volume and unlike the gastroc, only crosses the ankle joint, and therefore assists only in plantarflexion of the ankle joint.
The two calf muscles form what is called triceps surae (nothing to do with the three-headed muscle on the back of the upper arm).
The calf muscles are important for athleticism but also aesthetics and that’s why you should understand their anatomy.
Difference Between Standing Vs. Seated Calf Raise
While either is a great option for calves training, there are differences between the two variations and also the machine variations. We cannot say that one is better however they are different.
Standing calf raise
We’ve included a few standing calf raise machines in this review because it offers advantages and some prefer it over the seated version. Again though, we’re not saying it’s better.
However, the standing calf raise seems to place more of an emphasis on the gastrocnemius because when the legs are extended this muscle is lengthened. Therefore, you may get a much better contraction of the muscle when performing calf raises.
This version also allows you to use heavier loads plus you can incorporate power calf raise variations. We’d say the standing calf raise also has better athletic carryover as you’re standing and moving as you would during physical activities and sports.
Seated calf raise
The seated calf raise starts with the knees bent which means the gastrocnemius is contracted to a degree, and the soleus should be stronger in this position.
If you’ve ever done seated calf raises consistently you may have noticed that you can load the weight pretty heavy. Well both calf muscles are working but the soleus is the stronger muscle and you can build a lot of strength rather quickly.
A big advantage of seated calf raises is that they don’t load the spine.
The seated calf raise machine is also typically smaller in comparison which means it’s better for smaller spaces and often costs less which is more ideal for many users.
Which is Safer?
Whatever piece of training equipment you use, it’s important to always exercise caution. You should never strain or have to use a lot of body momentum to lift the weight.
Always practice proper form before worrying about stacking on the weight.
With that being said either machine type can be dangerous and cause injury.
For example, the standing calf machine places the weight load on the spine and while it’s fine for beginners, this variation is better used by those who have a good understanding of proper body position and lifting technique.
The seated machine isn’t safe either when used improperly. Loading up too much weight too early or using bad form can strain the foot and ankle. Many times, not warming up sufficiently will result in pain on the back of the lower leg below the calves.
It’s important to take your time when it comes to calf training especially because of the vulnerable position the muscles are in during calf raise exercises.
Isn’t Calves Size All Genetic Though?
The calf muscles help us to walk, stand, jump, hop, and quickly change directions. They are essential for athletic performance but also one of those muscles that play such a big role in aesthetics.
Unfortunately, some people will never have massive calves because their genetics won’t allow for it. Does that mean you’ll always have underwhelming lower legs and what many call chicken legs? Well, not necessarily.
There’ve been some observations made about these stubborn muscles.
While some people naturally have good or decent calves, a solution for others is to build muscle overall and focus on lower body training to increase their size. There’ve also been some instances where people claim to have trained their calves for years using special techniques with success even having bad genetics.
There’s so sure answer to someone’s calf-gaining potential and it may depend on how much someone is willing to focus on them and train them. It’s possible that by taking your training seriously you could get better calves and it’d definitely be worth it if you made some gains.
How To Choose The Best Calf Raise Machine For You
Not every machine will suit the needs of every person. If you read through the previous sections then you’ll understand why.
How much you can or are willing to spend can play the biggest role in whichever option you choose. Luckily for you we’ve included choices at various price points.
Keep in mind though that cheaper products may not offer top-notch quality or as many features compared to similar and pricier options.
Standing or seated
As mentioned, there are differences between the two that you need to be aware of especially if you don’t have much training experience. Not to mention, space and budget will play a big role for many.
The standing version may be better for those with more experience, who have more space and can afford a higher price.
The seated option may be better for beginners, those with less space and who may not want to shell out as much money to buy a calf raise machine.
This one is also very important for many but especially for those who have specific goals, preferences and experience using calf raise machines.
For example, do you want the ability to do other exercises too? In that case a good standing machine is your best option. Or maybe you must have assisting handles located on top of the part that secures your legs down so you can spot yourself.
Many times you get what you pay for so keep that in mind but also be sure to read through the product details to ensure you find an option that has what you need and want.
Build Your Calves at Home With A Quality Calf Raise Machine
If you weren’t blessed with great calves then you may have to work a little harder to put some size on em. These stubborn muscles need special attention but many neglect to train them at all. Using a calf raise machine is one of the best ways to stimulate your lower leg muscles and we’ve included a list of the best ones in our opinion.
Getting one for your home gym could allow you to target them how you need to to finally see some progress. Take the time to learn the differences between these options and decide which may best suit your needs.
We hope this review and calf training information was helpful and also check out these best old-school calf workouts and exercises.