What Is a Donkey Calf Raise?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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A donkey calf raise is a type of exercise that strengthens and tones the calves as well as the hamstrings. It can be done with one or two people, and as the name suggests, when it is done with two people, a partner will straddle the person as if he or she is riding a donkey. This is a difficult exercise when done with a partner, though a donkey calf raise can be a mild to moderate exercise when done alone. To do this exercise, a person will need an elevated platform as well as a stable, sturdy object on which to stabilize himself.

Some people use hexagonal dumbbells as the platform. Two dumbbells placed on the ground provide a stepping surface on the dumbbell handle, though other safer options are available. A step on a staircase can be used, as can a stable box or exercise platform. The platform will need to be placed a short distance away from a chair or other stable object on which a person can brace himself during the exercise. If the donkey calf raise is being done with a partner, the stable object will need to be quite strong and immovable. Some machines at the gym suit this purpose well, as do some heavy tables.


A person will start a donkey calf raise by standing on the platform using just the balls of the feet. He or she will let the heels of the feet drop toward the floor, thereby stretching the calf muscles. The person will then lean forward at the waist and grasp the chair or other stable object. The body should be bent at close to a 90 degree angle with the arms and legs all slightly bent. Once in position, the person will raise his or her weight using the calf muscles so the heels become level with the balls of the feet. For added resistance, he or she can raise the heels above the balls of the feet, hold the position, then drop back down to the starting position. This motion should be repeated several times to complete one set.

The same donkey calf raise motion can be done with a partner straddling the person's lower back. The partner will essentially sit on the person's hips, thereby adding a significant amount of resistance to the donkey calf raise exercise. This should only be done by advanced users, as this can be a dangerous exercise that can lead to injury.


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