If you’re looking to improve your vertical jump, you may have heard calf raises are one of the best ways to do that. In this article, I’m going to be discussing whether calf raises will help with that goal or not specifically. I’ll also be offering some tips to avoid injuries, other benefits of calf raises and other exercises that can help.
For many experts the calf raises are fundamental exercise for improving the vertical jump and that’s why I’d like to share my thoughts if calf raises increase vertical jump.
What are Calf Raises?
If you’re experienced with working out and training, you probably know what they are, but I thought I would cover this for the people who are newer to exercise or training. Or maybe you’re just new to training for vertical jumps. No matter what your fitness level or goals, more information is always beneficial.
Calf raises are a method of exercising the gastrocnemius, tibialis posterior and soleus muscles of the lower leg. The movement performed is plantar flexion, a.k.a. ankle extension.
In case you’re wondering. The gastrocnemius is the largest part of your calf muscle. It’s the part that bulges and gives that part of your leg a rounded shape. The tibialis posterior is the lower, more tapered part of your leg and calf. The soleus is underneath the gastrocnemius and is thinner and longer.
To do a standing calf raise:
Use a step and hold onto the banister for balance. Keep standing tall, abs in:
- Move your heels off the step
- Dip your heels towards the ground
- Pull your heels up, so you’re contracting your calf muscles
- Hold for about 2 seconds
You don’t need to go fast, take your time.
Here is a link to a YouTube video to show how to do a standing calf raise properly:
If you already have a home gym with a machine, that’s awesome, but for those of you who don’t, here’s an alternative.
To do a seated calf raise (with dumbbells):
- Sit on a chair
- Hold your dumbbells (you could also use water bottles or soup cans), so that they’re resting on your lap
- Raise your heels to contract your calves (you can use a block or books if you have to)
Here’s a tutorial video on how to use a calf raise machine:
How Many Reps Should You Do?
This depends on whether you are doing a seated or standing calf raise.
Standing raises carry a heavy load due to the muscle used (the gastrocnemius) and requires fewer reps. 6-8. The instructor in the video recommends 10-15 reps.
Seated raises use less weight and require more reps. The muscle involved is the soleus. 16-24 reps are recommended.
If you’re looking for more defined muscles, less weight and higher reps are what you’d like to do. If you’re looking to bulk up or get bigger calves, more weight and less reps.
The gastrocnemius is made up of fast twitch muscle fibers, which benefit more from heavy loads and low reps on the standing calf raise. Slow twitch fibers, such as the soleus, benefit from lighter loads and high reps on a seated calf raise.
Do Calf Raises Increase Vertical Jump?
So, with all that being said, do calf raises help you jump higher? The short answer is yes. Or at least they can. If done properly, they build your calf muscles and make them stronger. Calf raises are the last motion you would make before executing a vertical jump, so they are training your body and muscles to make that motion more effectively.
Related: How Tall Do You Need to Be to Dunk?
Of course, how much you can improve your vertical jump will vary from person to person. Simply just bulking up won’t necessarily make you be able to jump higher.
You could do just calf raises to improve your jump, but it’s better to take a multifaceted approach, which is why I’ve included other exercises that can also help.
Another short YouTube video that covers this:
Tips to Minimize Injuries
Stretching. This may sound obvious, but it’s very important. Tight muscles can put you at higher risk for injuries.
Here’s a calf stretch that can help. Couch potato calf stretch: Sit on the edge of a couch with your feet flat on the floor. With one leg, keeping your heel on the floor, lift and point the toes toward the ceiling, so that you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, then do the same with the other leg, three times per leg.
This also sounds like a no brainer, but you definitely want to do any stretches and exercises carefully and with proper form. Which is why I’ve included videos, so you can see how to do them properly and safely.
Avoid over training. This can put excess strain on your joints and tendons. It’s best to vary your exercise routine. That’s another reason why I’ve included other exercises to try as well.
Rest. Make sure you not only vary your routine, give yourself a day off from training. Even if it’s just one day. Your muscles, joints and tendons need that time to repair.
If you have a lot of fat storage in your calves, this can put you at higher risk of blood clots and heart disease. It can also be a sign that you’re retaining lymphatic fluid. If you are concerned about this, please seek medical advice before doing any exercises.
Other Benefits of Calf Raises
These muscles are important for our balance and stabilization. Strengthening your calf muscles can help to prevent injuries. Such as:
- Achilles tendonitis
- Shin splints
- Calf strain
- Plantar fasciitis
Other Exercises that Can Help
Since I’ve mentioned varying your training a couple of times now, here are other ways to build and strengthen your calves to jump higher.
These include (for definition):
- An elliptical machine
If you’re looking to build muscle mass:
While calf raises will help you jump higher (to a point), it’s also important to stretch, use proper form (take your time and watch tutorials), vary your training routine (avoid overtraining) and rest.
Calf raises increase the vertical jump and that’s for sure, but most importantly, have fun and stay safe.