If you are like most people, you’ll find that your calves are one of the hardest muscle groups to train. That’s because they are extremely stubborn due to the fact that we are walking around on them all day long.
Compare that to your biceps, which are hanging limply at your sides most of the day. In order to get the calves to respond, they must be worked regularly and hard. In this article, we review the 5 best seated calf raise machines currently on the market to allow you to do precisely that.
A Quick Overview of the Top 3
The best seated calf raise machine currently on the market is the Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise, which provides a 3:1 weight ratio, is solid and durable, and comes in at a great price.
Our second favorite is the XMark Seated Calf Raise machine, which features height-adjustable swivel pads and has a max weight capacity of 450 pounds.
Completing our top 3 is the Rogue Fitness Reflex seated calf machine, which is the highest quality home use seated calf raise machine we’ve come across but also the most expensive.
The 5 Best Seated Calf Raise Machines:
1. Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise
- 3:1 weight ratio
- Well priced
- Angled footplate
- Nonslip pads
- Olympic weight sleeve adapter must be sold separately
The Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise is a budget model for home use that gives you all the functionality that you need to give your calves an intense workout. It is designed to provide a 3:1 weight ratio so that the working weight on your calf muscles is three times more than the actual weight that you load onto the machine.
You also get an angled footplate with a nonslip pad to allow you to maximally work the gastrocnemius muscle, which provides the bulk of your calf mass. A long control handle allows you to easily load and unload the weight. This compact unit weighs in at 44 pounds and measures 45 x 21 x 32 inches.
Your purchase of the Body-Solid Powerline Seated Calf Raise machine is protected by a 10-year warranty on the frame with 12 months on the other parts.
2. XMark Seated Calf Raise Machine XM-7613
- 11 gauge 2 x 3-inch steel framing
- Height-adjustable swivel pads
- 450 lb max weight
- Fully adjustable thigh pads and weight arm
- Only takes 2-inch diameter weight plates
The XMark Seated Calf Raise Machine impresses with its solid steel frame, which comprises 11 gauge 2 x 3-inch square steel. The height-adjustable swivel thigh pads make it easy to get in and out of position. A unique feature of this machine is that the thigh pads will actually swivel with you as you perform your calf raises to provide a more biomechanically efficient effect on your calf muscles.
A pair of chrome finished Olympic weight posts extend horizontally from the central frame. The posts are long and strong enough to handle five 45 pounders on each end for a total weight capacity of 450 pounds. However, this calf raise machine will only take Olympic 2-inch diameter plates. So, if you already have standard plates, then this machine will not be suitable for you.
Both the height of the thigh pads and the length of the weight arm are fully adjustable on this machine. The calf block is also rubber coated and slip-resistant.
3. Rogue Fitness Reflex Seated Calf Machine
- Heavy-duty commercial quality
- 6 position tibia adjustment
- 2-3 inch high-density foam padding
- Only takes Olympic plates
When it comes to Rogue Fitness home fitness equipment, you can be assured of two things: it will be premium quality and it will be expensive. That is certainly the case with the Reflex Calf Machine. In fact, this beast is commercial gym quality, being made of 11ga. Welded tubular steel. A 6061 aluminum skid plate provides excellent foot traction and placement while the 2 and 3-inch high-density foam pads provide the highest level of quad and knee comfort of any of the five seated calf raise machines reviewed here.
This is a multi-adjustable machine with a six-position tibia adjustment. This machine is also designed to take Olympic plates.
4. Deltech Fitness Seated Calf Machine
- Comes with an Olympic plate adapter
- 3 x 2-inch square steel tubing
- Well padded
- Fully adjustable
- Not for large people
The Deltech Fitness Seated Calf Raise is a durable, comfortable, and highly functional machine that also comes in at a competitive price point. It is constructed from 3 x 2-inch square steel framing. The thigh pad is adjustable so that you can get the best positioning for your height. A pull pin lever makes it easy to make this adjustment while you are seated on the machine.
This seated calf raise is well padded with high-density foam and features a slip-resistant covering on the calf block. It has a standard one-inch diameter centrally located weight post. However, you also get an adapter so that you can modify it for Olympic plates.
5. Valor Fitness CC-5 Seated Calf Machine
- 12 gauge steel framing
- Extremely adjustable
- Well padded
- Maximum weight limited to 350 lbs
The Valor Fitness CC-5 Seated Calf Raise machine looks and feels very sturdy thanks to its 12 gauge steel framing. The weight posts, which sit horizontally off the mainframe, are chrome plated while the footplate is diamond plated. This machine is impressive in its level of versatility with 6 vertical positions and 5 horizontal ones. It is also well padded to allow for comfort on your quads and knees while you are repping out on your calf raises.
The Valor Fitness CC-5 Seated Calf Raise machine has a maximum weight load of 350 pounds and measures 51.25 x 25 x 36 inches. It is suited for home and light commercial use.
The seated calf raise machine is a specific tool that is targeted for just one exercise. If you buy a machine that is not fit for purpose then there is nothing you can do with it but allow it to collect dust in the corner of your home gym. Here are 5 key things to look out for to ensure that you get a seated calf raise that can do the job effectively:
Range of motion
Most people do not use a full enough range of motion when they are doing calf raises. Make sure that the platform that you sit the balls of your feet on is high enough off the ground to allow you to fully extend and contract the calf muscles.
In the starting position of the seated calf raise exercise, you want your thighs to be parallel to the floor. If you are either shorter or taller than the average person you will have to adjust the height of the thigh rest to achieve this. Make sure that the machine has multiple pin adjustment settings to allow you to make this adjustment.
Some seated calf machines feel more like a torture device than an exercise machine due to the uncomfortableness of the thigh pad pressing down on your quads. This may be a combination of two factors: the weight plates not being adequately offset from the thigh pads and the pads themselves not having sufficient quality and/or quantity of padding. If your thighs are in agony while you are doing the calf raise, you will probably stop the set before your calves are adequately fatigued.
If you are unable to personally test out the machine for comfort, check reviews from verified online users.
Weight Plate Holder
Different seated calf raise machines to position their weight plate pins differently on the machine. Look for one that has the post centrally located so as to allow proper balance. Check, too, that the weight plate post allows you to put the right-sized plates on the machine.
You don’t want to buy a machine that is designed for Olympic plates when all you have in your home gym is standard 1-inch diameter plates. If you have a combination of Olympic and standard plates, go for a machine that takes the standard plates. You can easily buy an adapter that will allow you to convert it for Olympic plates as needed.
We have already mentioned how stubborn the calf muscles are. In order to get them to respond, you need to use some pretty heavyweights. That means that the machine needs to be sturdy enough to handle that poundage. Look for a machine that is made from 2 or 3-inch square steel and that has a solid and secure base.
The maximum weight capacity of the machine should also be relatively high. Look for a machine that will allow you to pile on up to double your body weight.
How often should I train my calves?
Because they are such a stubborn muscle group, the calves can be trained more than most other body parts. However, they still need to recover between workouts. We recommend working your calves every 48 hours to keep them stimulated and allow enough time between workouts to recover and grow.
How heavy should I train my calves?
In order to get full calf development, you need to train them through a full range of rep protocols. High reps and low reps are needed in order to stimulate all of the muscle cells. High reps mean going as high as 50 on a set, which will necessitate a relatively light weight. On the other extreme, low reps can be as low as six per set. That will require going up to around 90 percent of your one-rep maximum for the calf raise (the weight you can only lift once with proper form).
We recommend combining both high and low reps in the same training session. Here is a six set rep scheme that has proven beneficial for many:
- Set One: 50 reps
- Set Two: 20 reps
- Set Three: 15 reps
- Set Four: 10 reps
- Set Five: 8 reps
- Set Six: 6 reps
Is the calf just one muscle?
There are actually two muscles that make up the calves. These are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Both of these muscles insert into the Achilles tendon and have the job of extending the ankle. Of the two muscles, the gastrocnemius (gastro) makes up the bulk of the visible part of the calf muscle. In fact, the soleus has very little capacity for muscle growth.
Can I train the inner and outer calf separately?
No, you cannot train the inner and outer calf separately, despite many gym ‘experts’ claiming that you can. These ones would have you believe that the positioning of your toes on the calf raise platform will determine which part of the calf muscle gets preferential targeting. When you think about it, this makes absolutely no sense. All parts of the calf muscle pull on the Achilles tendon. All parts then work together to produce the plantar flexion that occurs when you do the seated calf raise exercise or any other calf movement.
The best foot position when you are doing the seated calf raise exercise is to have the balls of your feet resting on the platform and your toes angled slightly inward. Make sure, too, that you get a full range of motion – all the way up and all the way down – on every single rep you perform.
Having your own seated calf raise machine will allow you to work for this stubborn muscle group as hard and consistently as is needed to force them to grow. Use our buyer’s guide and reviews to guide you to the best machine to add to your home gym set up. Then work your calves hard and heavy every second day patiently and consistently and you will soon be rewarded with bigger, fuller, stronger lower leg muscles.
This article was last updated on July 26, 2023 .