Donkey Calf Raises: A Complete Guide

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Calf exercises are not supposed to be overlooked. Your calf muscles have the ability to absorb the load and provide adequate rest to your lower limb. With regular calf exercises, you can build the strength to run faster for an extended period.

Donkey calf exercise is one such workout that can help you get bigger calves and more ankle stability.

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Muscles Worked by the Donkey Calf Raises

Two major muscle groups are targeted and activated by donkey calf raises.

First Muscle Group (Primary):

Calf muscles comprise two muscles: soleus muscle and gastrocnemius muscle. These are majorly targeted with the donkey calf raises.

Structurally, the gastrocnemius muscle rests above the soleus muscle, making it the larger one. With its combination, you are able to control movements like walking or running.


Second Muscle Group (Secondary):

Besides the calf muscles, the donkey calf raises also targets the abs and hamstrings. While performing this exercise, you will feel a stretch in your hamstrings.

Along with that, the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis also get activated.


Benefits of Donkey Calf Raises

Donkey calf raises go beyond working on your calves and strengthening the calf muscles. You can integrate this exercise into your daily workout routine for the following reasons:

Calf Strength

As we all know, our calves have two muscles: Gastrocnemius and Soleus. It is necessary to get these muscles to work to improve their overall strength.

When it comes to Gastrocnemius, lateral and medial heads are present that form into your Achilles tendon. This muscle comes to be of high importance when it comes to jumping or sprinting.

Coming to the Soleus, it is made of slow-twitch fibers, also known as Type-I fibers. They help in supporting your limbs by preventing you from falling down.

Donkey calf raises targets these muscles directly, giving you improved calf strength.


Prevention of Injuries

Donkey calf raises help with a strong calf complex. With this, you can prevent further injuries, like:

  • Sprained ankles
  • Patellofemoral Pain
  • Tendinopathies of the knee
  • Calf tears and strains

It also helps in the rehabilitation of injuries.


More Effective than Standing Calf Raises

When it comes to hamstring activation, donkey calf raises are more useful than standing calf raises. While performing donkey calf raises, your hips hinge forward while the back of your leg gets stretched out. This activates your hamstring, giving you more flexibility and range of motion.


Ankle Support

By doing donkey calf raises on a daily basis, you can improve your ankle strength and mobility. This lessens the chances of getting ankle sprains.


How to Perform the Donkey Calf Raises?

One of the best and most convenient things about donkey calf raises is that no major equipment is required. But to get the correct form, you will have to do the exercise with precision.

If you are new to this, we have explained the technique in an easy-to-understand way. We hope that you follow it accordingly and bring perfection to your donkey calf raises.


Donkey Calf Raises without a Machine

  • Keep weight plates on the floor. You can also use low block steps for the same.
  • Place them two three feet behind a sturdy and waist-high bench or railing.
  • Slowly bend forward and place your elbows on the bench. The balls of your feet must be on the edge of the weight plates or steps.
  • Ensure that your back gets parallel to the floor. The chin must be tucked in throughout the exercise.
  • While maintaining this position, lower your heels towards the floor. Hold it for one second while your calves get stretched.
  • Lift the heels while squeezing your calves and hold the position.
  • Lower the heels and repeat the procedure.


Donkey Calf Raises with a Machine

If you are at a gym and have the liberty of doing this exercise with a machine, you can perfect your form even more.

  • Place yourself on the machine with your lower back resting on the pad.
  • Add the weights that you are comfortable with.
  • Keep the balls of your feet on the plate with your heels hanging off.
  • Your legs must be extended, and your forearms on the arm pads.
  • Lean in so that your torso moves forward.
  • Flex your calves by pressing your feet. Keep your legs straight at the knees.
  • Move your feet while exhaling.
  • Lower your heels while inhaling.
  • Repeat the process.


Common Mistakes to Avoid While Performing Donkey Calf Raises

Donkey calf raises are a simple and straightforward exercise. Despite that, people tend to make subtle mistakes while trying to maintain their form. This can lead to a compromise on your technique, making the workout redundant.

However, you can steer clear of such blunders by avoiding the following mistakes:

Skipping the Hard Contraction

You might be tempted to finish ten reps in a minute. This might fire up your calves temporarily, but it will reap no long-term benefits.

When you lift your heels in donkey calf raises, make sure that you hold it for a second for a hard contraction. Skipping this will not help you build strong and big calves.

Do not pace too fast through the exercise, and take your time with it. Remember, slow and steady always wins the race!


Skipping the Weight Plates or Steps

If you want to do donkey calf raises the right way, you need to use some weight plates or elevated steps. Simply keeping your feet on the ground and flexing it will not do the trick.

You will only get a nice stretch while keeping a sturdy object under the balls of your feet.


Position of the Back

Keeping your back parallel to the floor is crucial to maintain a stretch in your calves. If you stand too upright, the stretch remains absent. This will not help you get strong calves.


Sets, Reps, Programming Recommendations for Donkey Calf Raises

If you are a beginner, we recommend you start with three sets of twenty reps each.

The advanced category can go for two sets of fifteen reps each.

Ensure that you rest for a minute between two sets.

You can increase or decrease the rep count according to the stretch in the calves.

This exercise will build your calves eventually, so do not try to overdo it.


Variations of Donkey Calf Raises

You can do the donkey calf raises in several manners. We have already explained how to do donkey calf raises with a machine before in this article. But there are other variations as well, like the following:

Donkey Calf Raises with Partner

Place your arms on the bench with your feet straight on the ground. You need not use weight plates for this.

Keep your arms parallel to your shoulders and ask your partner to sit on your lower back.

While exhaling, lift your heels from the floor and flex your calves. Keep your legs straight throughout this exercise.

Hold for a few seconds and lower your heels while exhaling. Repeat the process.


Donkey Calf Raises with Dip Belts

Tie a dip belt around your waist and hook the dipping plates to it. You can also use a barbell for the same.

Carefully position it between your legs while placing your arms on an elevated bench or railing.

Place the balls of your feet on the weight plates, and you are ready to do the exercise.

Exhale and lift your heels for a good stretch. Hold it for a second. Lower the heels and inhale.

Repeat the process.


Safety & Precautions for Donkey Calf Raises

To save yourself from any accidents or injuries, adhere to the following precautionary measures while doing donkey calf raises:

  1. Go for a full contraction and not half-heart stretches.
  2. Inhale while lowering your heels, and exhale while lifting them up.
  3. Position your feet correctly on the weight plates.
  4. Do not keep your feet wider than your shoulder length.
  5. Your knees or legs must not bend throughout the exercise.
  6. Lower your heels slower than you lift them up.
  7. If you are using a machine, always keep your lower back against the pad.
  8. Take breaks between two sets.


Alternatives of Donkey Calf Raises

To spice things up for your calves, we have the following alternatives of donkey calf raises:

  1. Burpee
  2. In and out abs
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Dumbbell deadlifts
  5. Standing hamstring stretch
  6. Tree pose
  7. Warrior pose
  8. Downward dog
  9. Lunges
  10. Jumping rope
  11. Plate pushes

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