FEEL THE BURN: Single Leg Calf/Heel Raise

FEEL THE BURN: Single Leg Calf/Heel Raise

What is this exercise?

The calf or heel raise is one of the most common exercises that people are given by numerous health and fitness practitioners to activate and strengthen your calf muscles in the back of your lower leg.  They are often taught and done incorrectly and inefficiently.

Single leg calf raises are great for building strength and are a progression from double leg calf raises.

Just like our recent Calf Raise instruction video (you can also read that article here), you can use a table or wall to assist your balance. You can also stand front on or side on to perform the exercise.

Similar to the double leg calf raise, keep your feet pointing straight ahead, push up onto your toes as high as you can through your big toe more than the outside toes, using one leg at a time. If you roll out on your foot and ankle you will feel the outside of your calf work. When pushing through the big and 2nd toe your foot and ankle stay in a more square postion and you will feel the middle and inside of your calf more.

Keep your knee locked out straight. If front on to the table or wall lean more on the opposite hand. If side on use the opposite hand to lean and balance with. Feel the burn in the upper half of your calf ( Gastrocnemius ) in the middle not just the outside.

The next part of this exercise is to work the lower part of the leg by bending your knee roughly 30 degrees, which will activate your Soleus muscle more allowing you to feel the burn on the lower half of your calf.

Repetition goal: 20 – 30 in both positions

Common errors

I feel the outside of my calf working > shift your weight so that you push through the big and second toe more than the outside toes and keep your foot pointing straight ahead.

I can’t feel the burn up at the top of my calf > make sure you lock your knee and keep it straight before you lift up.

What muscle groups does this exercise use?

Primary Activation/BURN

  • Gastrocnemius muscle (high muscle in calf) > Straight knee
  • Soleus muscle (deep muscle runs all the way along your calf) > Bent knee

Secondary activation

  • Peroneus Brevis
    • Peroneus Longus
    • Tibialis posterior
    • Flexor Hallucis longus


  • Calf strength
  • Ankle Strength and Stability
  • Lower Body Performance
  • Injury Prevention