The History of the Calf Raise


As the holiday season slowly approaches, one must take a moment to appreciate time spent with loved ones. However, there is one cherished individual who will most probably not be making an appearance at this year’s secret Santa…your calves. Ah the leg’s younger sibling who never joins in the game of tag, calves are the bodies El Dorado. Alas, the best we can do is offer the History of the Calf Raise.

Similar to the squat, pinpointing an origin for a calf raise is no easy task. People have been pointing their feet and reaching for out of reach objects since, well ever since they’ve been placing objects out of reach. However the systematic use of a calf raise exercise can be located in the 1800s. J.A. Beaujeu would lead his pupils through a variety of leg exercises comprised of leg circles and various types of marches, but would begin with calf raises by simply asking the group to perform plantar flexions (or stand on their ‘tippy toes.) Later in the 1890s, Louis Attila also promoted weightless calf raises as an important leg exercise. At the turn of the century, calf raises were illustrated in ‘Illustrated Hints for Health and Strength for Busy People’ in which Adrian Peter Schmidt promoted strong ankles by performing both plantar and dorsal flexions with feet parallel, at a 45 degrees angle, or with one foot in front of the other. However, there are no indication of adding weight to the movement.

To the best of our knowledge it is not until the 1950s that actual calf raise machines make an appearance in weight rooms. According to Randy Roach, the 1950s experienced a boom in leg exercise equipment such as the leg extension and the leg curl. Therefore it is plausible that the calf raise machine also appeared around that time. In 1955 there is evidence of a Calf Development Boot, while David Gentle reveals that the first prototype for a standing calf raise was created by an English company called ‘Spur Barbell’ in the 1960s. The weight training equipment company ‘Jubinville’ began advertising a seated calf raise in the 1970s, about 10 years after their establishment. Gentle also states that he remembers seeing John Grimek in the 60s with a loaded barbell across his thighs, placed just above the knee, pointing his toes.

Another example of some murky history. What we know for sure is, if Steve Reeves had a calf raise machine in his bedroom, and Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the bottom of his pants to reveal only his calves, those bad boys must be important so we will keep at it! Will you?

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