Donkey Calf Raises Exercise to Build Calf Muscles

Why are donkey calf raises such an effective exercise

Donkey calf raises are attributed to bodybuilder Larry Scott for their discovery

Here is why they are effective.

As you are aware the calf muscles are two in number {bigger muscles} - gastrocnemius and soleus.

Gastrocnemius crosses both the knee joint and ankle joints whereas soleus crosses only the ankle joint before it is inserted.

Also hamstrings muscles circle around the gastrocnemius before they get inserted into the lower leg.

So whenever you bend at the waist, as in donkey raises, the tension on the hamstrings increases which in turn makes the gastrocnemius muscles, the third largest muscle in the body after gluteus maximus and quadriceps femoris, contract harder.

Thus donkey calf raises, with torso bent at the waist makes the calf muscles work at their best capacity and hence are so effective for total calf muscle training

Donkey Calf Raises is an excellent exercise to Build Calf Muscles. Check the correct execution technique and blast your calves now.

Purpose - To Build Muscle Mass in the calves.

Donkey Calf raises are always my second option. I have found great results with standing calf raises. But I do know few ones who swear by Donkey calf raises. Add this exercise as a variation to your calf workouts and it will add some variety to your leg workouts.

Execution Technique

This exercise can be done with a training partner sitting across your back or without a partner wherein you just bend forward with toes placed onto a raised box and grab a gym station or door knob for hand support.

I will show you the donkey calf raises version with partner sitting across your back.


  1. Stand on a board and bend forward holding a table for support. A slight bending of the knees is best as you already know by now that gastrocnemius crosses the knee joint too.
  2. Ask a training partner to sit across your back. Make sure the partner is not too heavy to cause lower back strain.
  3. Lower your heels and get as low as possible and fully contract your calf muscles fully.
  4. Extend your calves and get back to starting position.

How to use donkey calf raises for bigger, stronger calf muscles

Option 1: Use donkey version of calf raises as a substitute for standing calf raises every alternate calf/leg workout.

Option 2: Do compound sets of standing and donkey calf raises back to back if the gym weights are not sufficient for calf training. This happens to me a lot and I do compound sets for maxing out my calves which can be very tough to grow.

Should you do donkey calf raises exercise?

If you have small calves, hard to grow calves or are involved in bodybuilding, then just do them.

If you are into weight lifting or do not want big calf muscles then exercises like power cleans, strong clean pulls will stimulate calf muscles sufficiently and calf raises are not needed.

Also do sprinting and jumping exercises for stronger calf muscles if you want alternatives or additions to calf raises.

Points to remember

  • Exhale while you exert, in this case while raising your calves against resistance.
  • Go full range of motion. Since partial calf movements happens everyday in walking and running, its essential that you go through full range movements to target the calves muscles including both gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
  • Keep your back straight through the exercise. If a partner is too heavy, ask a lighter guy or just to bodyweight donkey calf raises.
  • Use high blocks to make sure that you are not limited in range of your movements.

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