The last few years has seen an explosion of popularity for suspension trainers like the TRX. This explosion is for good reason! You can work every part of the body on the TRX  in a unique way other tools in the gym will not allow. Whether rehabbing an injury, trying to lose weight, or an athlete prepping for the big game, the TRX is a great tool to shape up.

One muscle that generally is hard to train are the calf muscles. They are a small muscle group, made of the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles. The gastrocnemius is the larger one on the outside, just under the skin, with the soleus muscle lying below, closer to the skeleton. These muscles need to be strong because they connect to the Achilles tendon and provide for ankle flexibility.

Any athletes whose sport demands jumping need strong calves to help produce power for their vertical leap, giving them an edge over the competition.


trx exercises for calfsImage by TRX Training

Because the TRX has the ability to shift the plane of motion, meaning that instead of every exercise going straight up and down, you can work from different angles, there a number of exercises to work the calves on the TRX exclusively.

The most basic calf TRX exercise would just be a standing calf raise, done facing away from the anchor point arms overhead and feet just a few inches closer to the anchor than the arms. This position requires the calves to be in an extended position where the muscles will continuously be under tension during the exercise. Push your body weight through your toes, extending the shin upward, away from the ankle. Do a few reps here and if you feel steady, pick one leg off the ground and do a few reps on each leg and enjoy the burn and stretch in the calf.

If while on two feet you feel unbalanced, turn and face the anchor point. Then bring your hands down by your side and squat, getting those hips nice and low to the ground. Extend out of the squat to standing position and extend your ankles, performing another calf raise. This regression should be easy enough for anyone.

For men, a good progression would be the jump squat as just described. The jump forces the calves to produce a large amount of force to send you off the ground, and also to help create a safe, soft landing.

Women should be more careful with the jump progression because they have a tendency to let their knees collapse (meaning the move inward towards each other) due to their anatomy of having naturally wider hips than men.

Another good calf TRX exercise for both men and women would be a single leg squat, performed from the same setup as the two foot squat, except one leg is off the ground. If you have good form here, try adding a calf raise to end of this motion as well, keeping balance without having to use the TRX too much. Again with women watch to make sure the knees track over the toes and do not collapse inward.

Another good TRX exercise for women would be the TRX Neo Row. Start with both handles in one hand, standing almost upright, with feet slightly closer to the anchor point than the hand. Reach back with your free hand toward the ground and allow your knees to bend, helping  you get closer to the ground.

This knee bend helps load the calves, forcing them to activate when you need to reverse motion and rise back to the start position. Give them a try!

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