On my homemade calf raise machine page I wrote: "Calves are the hardest muscle to build. You walk around on them all day and toughen them up. For full development you need to do standing and seated calf raises, in bare feet for a greater range of motion, and at least five sets of twenty-five reps.
Seated calf raise machines start at $100, but I found an easy way to do these in my power rack. Place your calf raise block inside your power rack cage. Sit on the end of a flat bench and place your bare feet on the calf raise block. Note the hole position your knees are in at the lowest point of the exercise motion (at the bottom of the stretch). Place the saber spotters in this hole position of the rack. For me it's the number three hole. Using a padded Olympic bar, from the lowest position, just roll the bar onto your knees. And you are good to go."
Now you can still do seated calf raises this way in your power rack, but this ties up the Olympic bar. What if you like to do circuit training and want to do barbell squats followed by standing calf raises and then seated calf raises? You need at least two Olympic bars plus my homemade calf raise machine to do this circuit.
If you want to build up your calves, you must do seated calf raises. Seated calf raises work the the soleus muscle. The soleus makes up 60% of the calf... so it's obvious that training the soleus properly would lead to the best gains in calf size and strength. Now I don't want to go into a calf anatomy lesson, but this article explains the proper way to work the gastrocnemius and the soleus calf muscles.
The lower level of my home is where my gym is located, and it’s filling up fast. Every new piece of equipment has to serve multiple functions and be stored easily. I don’t know of any seated calf machine that folds up for storage, so I started looking for ideas to make a homemade seated calf raise machine.
Here’s the piece of equipment I bought, the Powertec power lever L-PL:
Powertec advertises that you can do shrugs, curls, bent over rows, front squats, and upright rows on this. I took one look at it and thought it could be used as a seated calf raise machine with a few modifications, AND it satisfied my requirements of serving multiple functions in my gym and it stored easily.
The power lever came in one 58 pound box, and it took three bolts to assemble, no problems there. It works really well for shrugs, curls, upright and bent over rows. Squats on this thing are a joke. It’s hard to get the lever into position for a front squat if you have more than seventy pounds on this thing. Any more weight than this and you would have to use the power lever inside the power rack to be safe. Even on powertec's website the dude in the video is squatting with light weight.
That being said, here are the modifications I made to convert this into a seated calf machine:
The first thing I did was to modify my homemade calf raise block by cutting off one side of the support legs, cutting a 45 degree angle in the 2 x 4 pieces I cut off, and then screwing these 2 x4’s onto the other support legs. This put the calf raise block at the right angle to do seated calf raises:
The other item in the photo is a scrap piece of metal that I’m using to hold up the power lever. Why did I cut up my homemade calf raise block? Because I found a great deal on Craigslist for a Body Solid calf/squat block that I couldn’t pass up.
Here's a description of the Body Solid calf/squat block from their website: "It's a combination squat platform for stabilizing the user during squat exercises and calf block for the most intense calf raise exercises with full range of motion, and complete comfort. Full 18" long x 6-1/2" high calf block allows greater stretch and contraction of all calf muscles. Full 26" long squat platform allows user to elevate heels for better balance and concentration. Solid steel, 2 bolt assembly, includes welded carrying handle and textured, no-slip surfaces. 2000 lb. capacity."
This thing will give your calves an incredible stretch, with no fear of your toes slipping off. But, I'm not sold on the benefit of having elevated heels while squatting. I guess it's to help your squatting form. I mainly use this for standing calf raises.
The second modifications were to take 3/4" pipe insulation (found at any home improvement store) and wrap the "V" section of the power lever where my knees would push the lever up. I simply held the foam padding in place with electrical tape.
From this close-up photo, you can see how the scrap piece of metal is used to hold the lever at knee height. You could also use a piece of wood for this. To complete the machine, the Ironmaster super bench is placed on the foot plate of the power lever; the power lever lower lever is resting on the homemade calf raise block which keeps the block in place; and the piece of scrap metal is holding the upper lever at knee height.
Now you just get into position; lift the load slightly which takes the pressure off of the scrap metal support; and then pull the scrap metal support back and do your reps.
Although my homemade seated calf raise takes a little time to set up, it works really well! And the Powertec power lever L-PL folds up and is easily stored out of the way. The lever also doubles as an extra Olympic bar, and can also be used as a weight storage rack. Not a bad bang for your buck!
It is time for Ironmasters 2015 Winter sale.
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