Your calf is found on the lower half of your leg and is an important muscle for maintaining balance, supporting strength, and protecting you from injury. The calf surrounds your Achilles tendon, so all athletes, especially runners, should be sure to strengthen and stretch their calves.
The calf muscles are actually two muscles working together. The gastrocnemius is the larger, rounder muscle at the top of the calf, while the soleus is the long muscle running horizontally up and down the lower leg. Here are three exercises that are perfect for targeting both of these calf muscles.
This is the standard exercise for targeting the calf muscle. Stand close to a wall so that you can reach out for balance. Keep your knees loose and not locked. Bring your weight onto the balls of your feet, tuck your hips slightly and engage your core.
Slowly, with purpose, rise up onto the balls of your feet, squeezing your calf muscles. Pause at the top. Slowly lower back down to the ground. Repeat this ten to twenty times. If this feels too easy, there are two variations that will increase intensity.
First, try standing on a step or a bench, with the balls of your feet firmly on the surface, but your heels hanging off. Sink your heels down as low as you can go, then rise up onto your toes. This increases the range of motion, making the calf muscle work harder.
Secondly, add a dumbbell into the exercise. Holding onto a weight while you practice the calf raises will make the exercise more intense.
This exercise is very similar to the standing calf raise, except on one leg! Stand close to a wall, tuck your hips and engage your abs. Keep your knees loose and not locked. Pick up one foot. You can hook this foot behind the other leg, or simply hold it floating in the air.
Slowly, rise up onto the ball of your standing foot, squeezing your calf at the top, then lower back down. Repeat this exercise ten to twenty times on each leg.
The same variations for the standing calf raise apply to this exercise as well. Consider practicing it on a step, or add a weighted dumbbell. As with all exercises, be sure to maintain good form throughout. If your form is poor, adjust the exercise to make it easier for your body.
These are three similar exercises that will all be very beneficial for your calves. Climbing up hills and stairs requires a lot of exertion on the part of your calf muscles. If you are lucky enough to live near some mountains, get outside and hit the trails! If you don’t have a mountain nearby, head to a nearby staircase, or go to your gym and hop on the Stairmaster.
Alternatively, you can walk on a treadmill that is set to have a steep incline. All of these exercises will engage your calves and help you build strength.
Because they are part of your legs, calf muscles are very easy to target. Yet they are so often ignored during weight lifting routines. If you want to protect yourself from injury and increase your overall strength, consider adding these calf exercises into your weekly routine. You’ll notice differences in no time!
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