The gastrocnemius is composed of two muscle heads; the lateral and the medial. The medial is located to the inner region of the calf, and the lateral being located to the outer.
Both muscle heads work to extend the ankle and are therefore primarily targeted with calf raise exercises. However, the gastrocnemius becomes muted when there is a significant bend in the knee, so the seated calf raise is ineffective for gastrocnemius development and instead targets the soleus muscle. The standing and donkey calf raises are great choices for gastrocnemius training.
The pointing of the toes outward during the calf raise has been shown to increase medial head activity compared to the lateral head, in research by Dr Per Tesch. However, we don’t believe this has any practical use for the vast majority of gym-goers and athletes who will find the calf raise with a neutral stance the best approach.