When you focus on gaining great legs, it’s easy to forget about your calves. Quads and hammies are much bigger muscles, and I think you naturally focus on the biggest muscles before you focus on the smaller ones. However, great quads and hamstrings demand great calf muscles. For men, it makes you look symmetrical. For women, it makes you look fantastic in a dress or skirt. So, let’s take a look at your calves.
There are only a few major muscles in your lower legs. On the posterior, calf side, the two biggest muscles are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius flexes the foot and the knee. The soleus flexes the foot only.
Calf raises are a great exercise that you can do anywhere. All you have to do is stand with your feet flat on the floor, balance yourself against a wall or chair or something, and then raise yourself up on your toes. Hold that top position for a second, and then slowly lower your heels back down to the floor. That’s one rep.
Since your calf muscles are used in walking, these are endurance muscles. So, while you might want to start with 3 sets of 10 reps, you’ll want to quickly raise the number of reps as soon as you can without making yourself so sore that it’s difficult to walk. I used to do 2 sets of 50 reps each, if that helps you set a goal. By all means, if you can do more, please do!
Variations of the Calf Raise
You can do this exercise with or without weights. You can do them standing flat on the floor, or by putting your toes on the edge of a stair or other raised (but stable) object. Doing these on a raised object gives you a longer range of motion, and, therefore, is more difficult to do. You can do these with both feet at the same time, or you can make the exercise more difficult by doing them one leg at a time.
If you work out in a gym, there are plenty of machines out there that allow you to add weight to the exercise. You can even do calf exercises on machines that are not typically considered calf machines, such as leg press machines. You could do a superset of leg presses, then immediately do a set of calf raises. Doing both of these exercises back to back can save you precious time on your workouts.
Another variation you should try is to vary the position of your feet when you perform this exercise. You can start with your feet pointing straight ahead, with your toes pointed together, and with your toes pointed outwards. Doing this exercise with varying feet positions just hits the muscles in a little bit different way. Try all these calf raise variations and see which one or ones you like the best. All of them are good choices.
However you plan to work out your calves, make sure you integrate some variation of this exercise into your weekly workout.
Until next time, remember that… there are no excuses when it comes to your health!