Calf training. You either love it or you hate it.
If you’re a bodybuilder, you’re going to need to train your calves hard if you want to stand out from the crowd.
Not to mention, a weak link in your physique, such as weak calves, can hamper the functional use of your muscles.
Anyone interested in fitness should train their calves for proper leg balance and complete leg development.
If you want a complete physique, you’ll want to do some serious calf training.
This guide reviews the best calf machines for total lower leg development. Let’s train!
In a Hurry? Here is our top pick:
Best Calf Machines
- TDS 1000 Rated Standing Calf Unit – Best Overall Standing Calf Raise Machines
- Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Raise Machine – Best Standing Calf Raise Machine For Beginners
- TDS Leverage Calf & Squat Machine – Best For Tall Users
- XMark XM-7613 Seated Calf Raise Machine – Best Seated Calf Raise Machine For Beginners
- Body-Solid GSCR349 Seated Calf Raise – Best Overall Seated Calf Machine
- TDS-Calf Block Platform – Best Calf Block
- Powertec Compact Leg Sled – Best Leg Press For Calf Raises
- Fit505 Tibia Dorsi Calf Machine HD – The Best Overall Tibia Dorsi Machine
Reviews – The Best Calf Machines
Standing Calf Raise Machines
The calf consists of two muscles:
- Gastrocnemius – This is the visible two-headed muscle you see when you look at the calf. This muscle is best worked with standing calf raises.
- Soleus – This muscle lies underneath the gastrocnemius. This muscle is best worked by seated calf raises.
- Anterior Tibialis – This is a small muscle group on the front lower leg. This guide features a machine that directly works this muscle. If you’re limited by budget, you can use a standing calf raise or leg press instead.
This guide is laid out according to the type of calf machine to make it easier to navigate. With this in mind, we will look at standing calf raise machines first.
TDS 1000 Rated Standing Calf Unit – Best Overall Standing Calf Raise Machines
This is strictly a standing calf machine. It can handle up to 1000lbs and uses Olympic plates.
There are four plate holders in all, two in the front and two holders in the back to store extra plates.
It’s height-adjustable, features thick shoulder pads, and is manufactured using sturdy steel construction.
The steel footplate is designed to prevent slipping. It does require assembly but is not difficult to put together.
The quality and load capacity of this unit makes it the best overall standing calf raise machine.
- Holds Up To 1000lbs
- Height Adjustable
- Thick Shoulder Pads For Support & Comfort
- Some Users May Find The Footplate Is Too Narrow
Body-Solid Leverage Squat and Calf Raise Machine – Best Standing Calf Raise Machine For Beginners
The Body-Solid Leverage Squat & Calf Machine is made using heavy-duty steel construction and can hold up to 800lbs.
It’s a plate loaded machine and uses Olympic plates. There are DuraFirm pads that are contoured to users’ shoulders for comfort and support.
The Body-Solid uses a round calf block instead of the more common square design.
This machine serves a dual purpose since you can also perform squats. It features a lifetime warranty.
This is the best standing calf machine for beginners because it helps establish good form in both squats and calf work.
It’s also a safe way to perform squats, an important exercise but one that needs to be done safely.
- There’s A Lifetime Warranty
- Holds Up To 800 lbs
- Made Using Steel Construction
- Plates Cost Extra
TDS Leverage Calf & Squat Machine – Best For Tall Users
The TDS Leverage Calf & Squat Machine is designed for users up to 6’6” tall and can handle up to 1000lbs.
It’s plate loaded and takes Olympic or standard plates. It’s made of heavy-duty steel, and the platform is also made of steel.
The pads are thick and height adjustable using 1” solid steel pins.
Like Body-Solid, this is a combo machine, so you can do squats, calf raises, and even shoulder shrugs.
The overall quality and height adjustment make this unit the best choice for taller users.
- Can Accommodate Users Up To 6’6” Tall
- Can Hold Up To 1000 lbs
- You Can Use Standard Plates
- No Warranty Info Listed
Seated Calf Raise Machines
As noted above, the seated calf raise machine primarily works the soleus, the muscle that lies underneath the more visible gastrocnemius.
XMark XM-7613 Seated Calf Raise Machine – Best Seated Calf Raise Machine For Beginners
The XMark XM-7613 is manufactured using 1-gauge steel and has thick 3” thigh pads.
The seat also uses 3” thick padding, and it’s tear-resistant. The thigh pads are height-adjustable and swivel, so they rotate with you as you exercise.
Additionally, they are height adjustable. There are rubber molded finger grips on the handles and dual weight posts that take Olympic style plates.
On the bottom, there’s a rubber-coated non-slip foot brace bar. There’s no load capacity listed for this machine, or warranty information, even on the XMark website.
Still, the reviews for this machine rate the overall quality very high, and it’s a great machine to get started with. That makes this the best seated calf machine for beginners.
- Heavy Duty Steel Construction
- Thigh Pads Swivel With You As You Exercise
- The Thigh Pads Are Height Adjustable
- No Load Capacity Listed
- No Warranty Info Listed
Body-Solid GSCR349 Seated Calf Raise – Best Overall Seated Calf Machine
The Body-Solid features 11-gauge steel construction and a lifetime warranty.
It’s ergonomically designed to reduce stress on the foot, and the thigh pads are height adjustable.
The pads and seat are thickly padded for comfort and support.
The GSCR349 is designed to operate smoothly and takes both standard as well as Olympic plates.
The foot platform is an angled design for more complete calf development.
This is a commercial-quality machine. It apparently has a 300lb load capacity, which is a little light.
Still, the quality and warranty make this the best overall seated calf machine.
- Lifetime Warranty
- Heavy Duty Steel Construction
- Takes Both Olympic & Standard Plates
- There’s No Load Capacity Listed, 300lbs Is Indicated In The Q&A Section
A calf block can be used with various types of home gyms that allow the users to perform seated and/or standing calf raises.
A Smith machine works best for this type of approach. The bar is fixed, so it’s not going anywhere, and the user can safely perform standing and seated calf raises.
This approach is suggested only if the user does not have the room or the budget for a free standing calf machine.
TDS-Calf Block Platform – Best Calf Block
The TDS Calf Block allows users with limited space and a Smith cage or similar home gym to effectively work their calves.
You can perform seated calf raises or standing using the fixed Smith bar, or fixed press bar of a single stack home gym.
The TDS will hold up to 1000lbs and is made using steel construction.
It has a textured, non-slip foot placement area, and allows users to work their calves through a complete range of motion.
These features make it the best overall calf block.
- Designed For Users With Limited Space And An All-In-One Home Gym
- Holds Up To 1000 lbs
- Features Steel Construction
- Some Users Had To Add Grip Tape For True No-Slip Foot Placement
Leg Press/Calf Raise Combo
While you can do calf raises on any leg press machine, a compact design is the best choice because it’s easier to use a complete range of motion.
Powertec Compact Leg Sled – Best Leg Press For Calf Raises
The Powertec Compact Leg Sled is a combination leg press and calf raise machine.
It’s designed to be small enough to fit in most home gyms. It features heavy-duty steel construction, it’s plate loaded and can hold up to 700lbs.
The Leg Sled is designed for smooth operation and has an adjustable footplate.
The compact design makes it ideal for getting a full stretch, which may be hard to achieve on a full-size leg press.
That makes the Powertec Compact Leg Sled the best combo leg press & calf machine.
- Designed To Fit In Small Exercise Spaces
- Can Hold Up To 700lbs
- Provides A Full Range Of Motion For Calf Raises
- May Not Be Big Enough For Taller Users
Anterior Tibialis Training
Fit505 Tibia Dorsi Calf Machine HD – The Best Overall Tibia Dorsi Machine
The Fit505 Tibia Dorsi Calf Machine HD is designed to work the tibia on the front lower leg.
It’s made using heavy-duty steel and can hold 100lbs of Olympic plates.
It does not take standard plates. It can be used standing or seated, one or both legs at a time.
It’s well-padded and the heel pivots as you exercise.
The Fit505 uses slightly loose pillow block bolts to allow smooth operation.
The features of the Fit505 make it the best choice for a Tibia Dorsi machine.
- Manufactured Using Heavy Duty Steel
- Holds 100 lbs – Takes Olympic Plates
- Works The Tibia Muscle On The Front Lower Leg
- Only Uses Olympic Plates Which Cost More Than Standard Plates
Buying Guide – How To Choose The Best Calf Machine?
The first thing that should be understood about calf machines is that for complete calf development you’ll need to perform both seated and standing calf raises. For many people, such as serious bodybuilders, that may mean buying two machines. Of course, you can choose any option you like in this guide, depending on your goals, space, and budget.
Things To Consider
There are a few things that determine the best results from using a calf machine. Let’s take a look
How To Choose The Best Calf Machine
The first thing to look at is the different types of calf machines:
Standing Calf Raise
This machine is used standing up with pads resting on your shoulders. It directly works the gastrocnemius, the most visible calf muscle. You can use a lot of weight on these.
Seated Calf Raise
This machine is used seated with the pads resting on your thighs. This works the soleus muscle, which sits underneath the gastrocnemius. This may be the most common machine for home use. One advantage is that as the soleus muscle grows, it will push out the gastrocnemius and help create the illusion of more size.
If your home gym has a leg press, you can perform calf raises on it. However, it should be noted that this variation primarily works the gastrocnemius.
As noted above, this is the ultimate space saver but it’s also the most inconvenient to use. While you can use it effectively with a barbell, Smith bar, or another bar resting on your knees, you won’t be able to use much weight. You’ll also need to pad the bar. You can do standing calf raises more easily with a calf block using the Smith machine. Still, a little awkwardness is a small price to pay if space and budget limit your options.
Since it’s easy to train heavy on calf raises, you’ll want a machine that can handle a lot of weight. For example, being able to use 1000lbs on a standing machine is a reasonable goal to train for. When looking for your machine, think in terms of using as much weight as possible.
Primarily, this refers to the shoulder pads on a standing machine. It also refers to the thigh pads and cushion on a seated machine. As you might imagine, doing 600-800lbs, or more, for sets and reps is a lot of weight resting on your shoulders. The same can be said about using max weight on a seated machine, with it resting on your thighs. Good thick pads can make a big difference in terms of comfort.
If you want complete calf development, you want both a standing and a seated calf machine. If you’re a bodybuilder with competition aspirations, this is a must. If you’re someone that wants better calves but has no plans to compete, you can choose whichever machine you prefer. If space is a real problem, you may find a compact leg sled like the Powertec listed in our guide works well. For the ultimate space-saving unit, a calf block may be the best way to go.
Like any other piece of exercise equipment, calf machines vary in price. You’ll have to buy according to your budget but make sure you get one that has the best possible warranty and highest possible weight capacity for your price range. The other consideration when it comes to your budget is the type of weight plates the machine uses. They all use Olympic style plates, but if it can use standard plates, they will cost less per pound. Factor the cost of the plates into the purchase price if you feel you need to buy more weight.
Some brands like Body-Solid, have a lifetime warranty across the board. Others do not even list it in their descriptions. The warranty matters, so make sure you know what it is before you make your choice.
Is The Anterior Tibialis Part Of Your Calf Muscles?
Technically, the tibia is not part of the calves but it is part of the lower leg muscles. Development of the tibia is important for the balance between the calves and the front of the leg. The tibia is also an important muscle for runners and mountain climbers. In bodybuilding, developing the tibia enhances the appearance of the calves in all front poses.
There’s more to good calf development than you might think. You’ll need to work them hard using both seated and standing calf raises, and you can’t forget the tibia on the front of your lower leg. No single machine works all the muscles involved.
If you decide you want a standing calf raise machine, the best overall is the TDS 1000 Rated Standing Calf Unit. This is a well-built machine that can handle up to 1000 lbs of plates for a serious calf workout.
If you would prefer to start with a seated calf machine, the best choice is the Body-Solid GSCR349 Seated Calf Raise. This machine has a lifetime warranty and features commercial level quality. Let’s say you just don’t have the room or the budget for one or more calf machines.
If you have a Smith machine or a single stack home gym, your best choice is the TDS-Calf Block Platform. This simple piece of equipment fits almost anyone’s budget and takes up no space to speak of. You can use it with any straight bar you have and get a complete range of motion on seated calf raises. Use it with a press bar or Smith bar and you can do standing calf raises.
Complete calf development requires commitment, but you will be rewarded with an amazing pair of lower legs.