to see more exercises like this?
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
If you've got scrawny calves that don't grow no
matter what you do, chances are good you're not
doing the Donkey Calf Raise exercise.
It's simply one
of THE best exercises for developing the calves.
The reason is the strong stretch you can put on
the calves at the bottom of every single rep because
of how your body and legs are positioned during
The Donkey Calf
Raise, if you're not familiar with it, is a calf
raise done in a bent-forward position. Your upper
body is leaning over at 90 degrees and is horizontal
while your lower body remains vertical. Then you
perform a calf raise from there.
Because the calf
muscles (the gastrocnemius,
to be specific) cross the knee joint, putting
a stretch on the hamstrings also puts a greater
stretch on the calves. So bending over at the
waist in this fashion will put a greater stretch
on your calves than if you were standing completely
straight up and down.
here's the problem...when you don't have a donkey
calf raise machine OR a partner to sit on your
back (like they're riding a donkey, hence the
name), how do you perform this exercise?
are not common in even in most gyms and if you're
training at home, I have a strong feeling a donkey
calf machine wasn't on your priority list of purchases
(though hopefully, a power rack was!).
One of the solutions
I've come up with is using a dip belt to add resistance.
You hang weight plates from your waist then bend
forward and perform the exercise.
It works well but
it's not a perfect solution either. The weight
doesn't sit in the best spot to get the most out
of the exercise (the belt ends up more on your
lower back than sitting on the hips, where you'd
get the best effect).
And, the stronger
your calves are, the more plates you have to use.
The more plates you have to use, the more awkward
the exercise becomes and the wider you have to
set your feet apart. It's not so bad when you're
working with 2 or 3 plates. But I've gone as high
as 6 plates and it gets VERY hard to perform the
my BETTER solution for Donkey Calf Raises
Instead of putting
a partner or the pad of a machine on your back,
you're going to put a BARBELL on your back but
not how you NORMALLY would put a barbell on your
to put it LENGTHWISE down your back!
In terms of positioning,
I like to conjure up an image of Atlas carrying
the world on his back. THAT is what your body
position is going to be similar to while you're
doing this exercise. You're going to be using
a barbell as a lever type of machine, lifting
up one end of the bar and using the other end
as a pivot point.
This is a GREAT
way to do Donkey Calf Raises I find it's
actually even MORE effective than using a machine
or a partner!
Setting Up and
Doing Barbell Donkey Calf Raises
This exercise should
be done in a power rack not only for safety reasons
but for ease of getting the bar into position.
The first time you
do this exercise, you will need to experiment
with the height that you set the safety rails
- it'll vary depending on your limb length.
So the first thing
you'll need to do is set one safety rail of the
rack about 3 feet off the ground. The other safety
rail should be set one or two notches LOWER than
that first rail.
Now set a barbell
on the rails. It should slope downward. Load a
45 lb plate (for starters) onto both ends of the
barbell because even though you're only going
to be lifting ONE end of the bar, you'll need
to counterbalance it with weight on the OTHER
end as well.
You're also going
to need a calf block to do the calf raise itself
on. Set the calf block underneath the end of the
bar that's lower and make sure it's perpendicular
to the bar (i.e. it would form a cross if you
looked down on it directly from over top of the
If you have a barbell
pad, that will be helpful as well (a rolled-up
towel works just fine, too). It helps to have
a little padding for your lower back where the
bar contacts it (set the pad down at the lower
end of the bar to accomplish this).
Now we're going
to test the height of the bar on the rails. Get
yourself underneath the bar so that the bar runs
down the length of your spine (like Atlas with
the world on his back). Grasp the bar with both
hands up near where it's resting on the higher
rail - that's the pivot point of the exercise.
Set your feet on the calf block for calf raises.
want to have some bend in your knees at this point
(before you lift the bar up). This is important
so that when you're in the stretch position of
the Donkey Calf Raise, the bar isn't hitting the
lower safety rail and stopping the stretch.
So now that you're
in position, straighten your legs and begin the
exercise. Your legs should stay straight and stiff
throughout the exercise to maximize the stretch
on the calves.
If the bar IS hitting
the safety rail at the bottom, you'll need to
lower that rail one more notch to make sure it
Now it's just a
matter of coming up into a calf raise! At the
bottom be VERY sure to get a deep stretch. Come
up fully into the calf raise at the top and squeeze
the calves hard on each rep.
Once you've got
the setup down, you can start adding weight to
the bar. Don't sacrifice form or stretch for adding
more weight, though. That'll defeat the purpose
of the exercise.
This exercise setup
is every bit as good as any donkey calf raise
machine I've ever used...better, in fact, because
your body isn't locked into the movement. Because
the end of the barbell moves freely, you're not
locked into the exercise and your body can find
its own groove.
Also, this exercise
beats using a partner for the simple fact that
if you don't have a partner, you're out of luck!
And if you need more resistance, you need to add
more partners. And yes, it will be hard to find
volunteers for this job. Not a problem with this
So next time you're
hitting calves in the gym, take a crack at this
one. And never mind the strange looks you get
from everybody else in the gym. You'll see THEM
doing this exercise the next time they're working
Books and Programs:
Explosion is my program for blasting
through muscle and strength plateaus.
It's a 28 day program that attacks
your body from every angle, using
every single trick I've ever learned
for building muscle fast. This
highly-strategic program is incredibly
challenging...and it can literally
add 5 to 10 lbs of muscle mass
to your body in 4 weeks.
Scientist Muscle is all about
sustained muscle growth and strength-building.
Overtraining on purpose can be
your biggest ally in the muscle-building
process...this program will teach
you how to use it to your advantage
for continuous results, while
also utilizing structural-based
training targeted to changing
your body's physiology to better
support muscle growth. It CAN
be done and this program will
do it for you.