Calf Muscle Exercise
The calves are one of the most prominent body parts and they play a major role in your overall appearance. They are made up of three main muscles – the gastrocnemius, soleus, and semitendinosus (the “semi” refers to their length). These muscles work together to extend your leg from its natural position at the bottom of your foot. The calf muscles provide balance when walking or running.
They also serve as shock absorbers during activities such as jogging or tennis.
How the Calf Works and How to Work It
When you walk, your calf muscles contract and pull your heel toward your toes. When you run, these same muscles contract again to push the front part of your shoe forward so it hits the ground first. If you were to stand with both feet together, your heels would touch each other when standing straight up. Your calves are responsible for keeping your legs straight while standing upright.
If you want to build stronger calf muscles, you need to strengthen all three of these muscles. The gastrocnemius muscle is located just behind your knee joint and helps keep your shinbone from moving upward when walking or running. The semi muscle is located in the back of your lower leg and works from the back to help move the foot downward. The soleus is located under the gastrocnemius and helps push the foot downward when walking or running.
There are a number of exercises that you can do to strengthen your calf muscles, including seated calf raise, standing calf raise, donkey raises, and one-legged calf raise.
The seated calf raise is one of the easiest exercises. You need a seat with a back that is just above knee height. With both feet on the ground, rest your heels on the edge of the seat and keep your knees straight. Extend your arms and place your hands on the edge of the seat for support.
Hold your upper body slightly forward and slowly rise up on your toes as high as you can, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Try to do the exercise slowly and controlled.
The standing calf raise is another easy exercise. Stand several inches behind a step and place your heels on the edge of the step. Keep your knees straight and place your toes on the ground so that you maintain balance. Slowly rise up on your tiptoes as high as you can, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
Hold your upper body slightly forward to maintain balance and keep it from getting too tense.
The donkey raise is one of the more challenging exercises. You will need a sturdy chair, table, or other piece of furniture that is at knee level. Sit on the edge of the furniture with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching together. Place both hands on the floor for support and extend your legs behind you such that only the bottom of your feet are in contact with the floor.
The upper part of your legs should be resting on the furniture. Press down with the palms of your hands and raise your heels as high as you can, then lower yourself back down to the starting position.
The one-legged calf raise is one of the most challenging exercises. It helps greatly if you have someone to spot you. Stand several inches behind a step and place your heel on the edge of the step. Keep the other foot flat on the ground behind you for support and balance.
Slowly rise up on the ball of the toe that is on the step, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
Use only slow movements and hold the contracted position for a second or two at the highest point of each movement. The advantage of this exercise is that it actually works both calves simultaneously.
Do three sets of ten of each exercise, with a five-minute break between sets.
Why Calf Raises Are So Good For You
Calf raises help to strengthen all of the muscles in the back of your lower legs, including your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. They also help to develop the tendons and ligaments that support the muscles and bones in this area. This helps to offset problems such as muscle or tendon strains, which are very common among sportspeople.
Strong calves are also good for your posture. People who have strong calf muscles often find that they have better body alignment, especially in the lower leg area. This reduces the risk of things such as ankle sprains.
Of course, the main reason why calf raises are so popular among athletes is that they make your faster. Stronger calf muscles allow you to push off with greater force when running, which means that you will be able to cover more distance with each step. If you are an athlete, there is a good chance that your coach has already had you doing some sort of calf raises during your training.
If you are not used to doing any sort of exercise in the past, you may find that your lower legs become very sore and stiff for the first few weeks of training. This is only temporary and will soon go away as your body becomes used to the exercises. In the meantime, you can apply an ice pack to your calves for ten minutes after each training session.
Doing calf raises will put a little extra stress on the bones and muscles in the front part of your ankle. It is therefore a good idea to do a few ankle exercises after each session of calf raises and before any other kind of training.
Ankle circles are a good way to keep your ankles flexible and can help to prevent problems such as sprained ankles. To do ankle circles, stand with your knees bent slightly and shift your weight onto your heels. Then twist your feet in clockwise circles, then anti-clockwise, then clockwise again, and so on. Do each circle movement slowly and make each one a full circle.
Another good exercise is to straighten your leg and move your foot in a circular motion without lifting it off of the ground. To do this, extend one leg out in front of you, then pivot your heel as far as it will go in circles. Continue for thirty seconds, then change legs and repeat with the other foot.
Calf raises are a simple but very effective exercise for improving the strength and size of your calf muscles. They can be combined with a number of other exercises to make a great all-round calf workout.
The stronger you build your calf muscles, the more effective your running will become, and the less effort you will need to put in to cover any given distance. This will give you a great advantage over your opponents in just about any sport that you take part in.
Calf raises can be strarted straight away, but it is a good idea to take it fairly easy at first, especially if you are not used to doing much exercise. You can increase the intensity as your muscles become built up a bit more.
The muscles in the front part of your ankles can also become a little strained if you are not used to doing any exercise, so it is a good idea to do some basic ankle exercises in addition to the calf raises. This will help to prevent injury and will also improve your running technique, making you a faster and more efficient athlete.
The best way to do calf raises is on a stairwell or steep hill. If there are no suitable places near you, you can purchase a portable calf raise machine fairly cheaply from most sports stores.
It’s always a good idea to warm up and stretch before doing any exercise. Spend at least five minutes on some gentle jogging on the spot and some basic stretching before you do your first calf raise workout. To stretch your calf muscles, stand with your legs a bit apart and slowly rise up on your toes, holding the position for ten seconds. Then bring your heels down and lower your heels down below your toes before repeating the exercise.
Calf raises are a simple exercise that can help you to achieve your sporting goals. If you want to be better at running or just want to cut down your times, then this is an exercise for you.
Once your calves are built up you can add more advanced exercises such as sprinting to your training. If you want to learn more about training programs that will take you to your goal as quickly and safely as possible, check out the resources in the sports nutrition section.
Good luck with your training!
Sources & references used in this article:
Calf husbandry, health and welfare by J Webster – 2019 – books.google.com
Anterior-horn cell degeneration and gross calf hypertrophy with adolescent onset: a new spinal muscular atrophy syndrome by J Pearn, P Hudgson – The Lancet, 1978 – Elsevier
Calf and foot exercise device by KA Pflugner – US Patent 5,839,999, 1998 – Google Patents
Calf workout devices by AP Carrillo – US Patent 5,433,684, 1995 – Google Patents
Blood flow and oxygenation in peritendinous tissue and calf muscle during dynamic exercise in humans by R Boushel, H Langberg, S Green… – The Journal of …, 2000 – Wiley Online Library