The best calf exercise for building strength and mass is the simple rise on toes, with the resistance provided by resistance bands or barbell plates.
A complete strength training program should build strength head to toe. Multi-joint exercises alone do not provide adequate stimulus for the fatigue-resistant calf muscles in most cases. Therefore Elastic Strength program includes direct training for the calves.
Rise on toes builds strength and muscle mass in the large calf muscles, both the gastrocnemius and soleus.
These large muscles of the calves have only one function: plantar flexion of the foot. Therefore the only exercise option is rise on toes.
I have poor calf genetics so I have had to find the best method for performing the rise on toes. The best calf exercise has to be the rise on toes with specific technique.
I think I have found the best calf exercise for people with poor calf genetics like myself.
Rise on toes can be performed one or two legs at a time, and can be loaded with plates or resistance bands.
In either case I recommend using then Brute Belt or other hip belt to eliminate the grip as a weak link and load the legs more directly.
I have found that the the two-leg calf raise on a block with resistance bands, as demonstrated in the video to the right, is one of the best calf exercises if not the best calf exercise. It produces deep fatigue in the calves, to the point of cramping.
When you try it you will see what I mean. A set of 20-30 repetitions will leave you with a deep fatigue and ache in the calves, and difficulty walking, which I don't get from sets done with regular weights in the ordinary fashion. You can get close to the effect of resistance bands by using the 2-zone rise on toes described below.
You can make the single leg rise on toes with a dumbbell or hip belt loaded with plates more intense by doing it in 2 zones as explained in the video to the right.
This method allows you to reduce the limiting influence of the sticking point of the exercise which occurs at the point when the foot is parallel to the ground.
By working the upper range of motion first, you exhaust the calves in their most contracted position first, then finish with intense work in the stretched position.
When doing the Elastic Strength program, choose one of the following calf exercises and get as strong as possible with that exercise: