Do Squats Work Calves?

Do squats work calves

Calves are known for being one of the most stubborn muscles to try and grow. Some people don’t even bother training them directly because they wholeheartedly believe that calves are genetic and there’s nothing you can do to change this.

This makes people wonder question if they can just squat in order to work their calves and if calves are being worked adequately during a squat

The answer is yes, squat do work calves – particularly weighted squats. It’s been found that it’s impossible to do a squat and for the calf muscles not to be activated.

Squats work the calves but another question is do squats work them efficiently, and the answer for that is no. With calves being such a small muscle group you won’t be able to train them correctly without isolating them – squats hit the calves but not directly.

Calf Genetics

Everyone in the world is built differently. Including how your calves look.

There are two types of calf muscle insertions you can have

  • High Calves
High half insertions

High calves are when the insertion is placed much higher on the leg, this is considered unlucky calf genetics because it doesn’t cover the majority of the leg, leaving the rest of the leg looking like you haven’t trained legs in years.

High calf insertions make the Achilles tendon longer, giving an advantage when it comes to things like running and jumping.

  • Low calves

This is an example of low calf genetics. As you can see the calf insert is much lower on the leg, meaning it takes up a larger portion of the leg.

Low calf insertions are more preferred in bodybuilding because they give the leg a thicker filled out look that bodybuilders want.

However you can know know the difference between a high calf insert and a low calf insert, but ultimately it comes down to your genetics. No amount of calf raises can change how the muscle is inserted on your leg.

The only way I know you can change your calf genetics is if you create a time machine and change your parents.

How To Grow Your Calves

Poor genetics isn’t a good enough reason to lie down and not train your calves – it’s laziness. If you train your calves properly they will grow, no matter what kind of insertions you have.

To understand how to grow the calves it’s important to learn about the different muscles involved, how they work and the types of muscle fibers.

The two muscles involved in calf training are :

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus

These two muscles are activated when you perform plantar flexion. It sounds scientific but this basically means your soleus and gastrocnemius are worked when you point your toes downward and your heels are raised off the floor.

The gastrocnemius is hit when your leg is fully straight like a regular stood up calf raise. The soleus however is targeted when there is flexion in the knee, like a seated calf raise or even a hamstring curl. This is because the knee is bent.

The gastrocnemius is made up of mostly fast twitch muscle fibers (Type 2). These kind of muscle fibers experience fatigue quicker.

The soleus is made up of mostly slow twitch muscle fibers (Type 1). These kind of muscle fibers are less likely to experience fatigue.

Because of this it’s important to include both heavy and light calf days. For example on your heavy days you would perform around 6-10 reps. And for your light days 12-20 reps. This way you get the best of both worlds and have a better chance of growing your calves.

What Is The Best Exercise For Calves?

There isn’t a single best calf exercise, but there are several ones that should be included in your calf training.

  • Seated calf raises

The seated calf raise focuses on the soleus muscle in the calf, this exercise is best performed slowly, with a 1-2 second hold at the top of the movement. Keep your form very strict and focus on the mind muscle connection. A lot of people will use their whole leg while doing calf exercises but it’s important to just focus on moving the weight with your calves.

  • Standing calf raises

This is performed with a straight leg, different to the seated calf raise where your leg will be bent at the knee. The standing calf raise focuses on the gastrocnemius. The same form applies – strict reps with in a controlled manner for the first few sets, once you’re approaching failure it’s fine to cheat a little and do some partial reps to really rip those muscle fibers apart.

When it comes to training calves you can’t half ass it you need to attack the calves with different rep ranges and different exercises. It’s also good to go to failure. Many people will do 3×10 on every exercise leaving a lot of room for growth.


Because of the plantar flexion in the calves when squatting this means that yes – squats do work calves to a certain extent. Although if your goal is to grow your calves then squats alone wont be enough.

You need to hit the calves with a lot of volume and include heavy and light calf days into your training.

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