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Many gym goers may look for calf-specific machines to work the lower leg, but smith machine calf raises will give you all you need. They’re perfectly stable, allow you to really jack up the weight, and allow you to get an excellent workout in almost any gym setting. This is because most facilities will have a smith machine, even if they don’t have actual calf machines. Below are some tips to make sure you get the most out of them.
You want to start your lower leg workout off with smith machine calf raises as standing calf exercises focus mainly on the gastrocnemius. Called the “gastroc” for short, this is the double-headed “diamond” shaped muscle that gives your calves the athletic and aesthetic look.
The calves are a very durable muscle group, as they’re used in so many everyday activities from running to walking to standing up to jumping and more. As such, they tend to need to be hit much harder than you normally would other body parts. Doing smith machine calf raises as your first lower leg movement ensures you’re not only hitting the most aesthetic part of the muscle, but will be hitting when you’re still (relatively) fresh.
Smith machine calf raises are best with a very heavy weight – something you think would limit you to 6-8 reps. However, once you’ve hit the 6-8 reps mark, keep working anyway, gutting your way out to 12-15 reps. The calves thrive with higher reps, and are often capable of much more than you might think.
After 3-4 sets, you can go about doing any other lower leg exercises you have planned. After you have, come back to smith machine calf raises again. Drop the weight by 10-20% or so, and do a couple burnout sets of max reps, striving for 20 or more. If your regimen doesn’t include other calf work, go directly from your heavier sets to your burnout sets.
When doing calf raises of any kind, you can choose one of three different toe positions – pointing straight ahead, inward, or outward. When your toes are pointed straight ahead, this will work the overall calf as a whole.
However, pointing your toes one direction or the other will work the opposite side of your gastroc. This means pointing your toes inward will work the outer head of the calf, while pointing your toes outward will work the inner head.
Your best bet is to spend most of your time with your toes pointed straight ahead for overall development. However, if you do decide to point your toes inward or outward, just be sure you do an equal number of sets both directions unless you’re trying to make up for imbalanced calf musculature.
Smith machine calf raises are an almost perfect lower leg movement as it gives you all the benefit of calf-specific equipment without actually needing to have access to it. Load up heavy and keep your reps moderate for a good mix of strength and size before coming back for a couple of finisher sets for max reps. Be sure to do your sets with your toes pointed in a way that will maximize the specific muscular development you’re looking for, and your calves should be improving in no time.