What are your calf muscles and why should you exercise them?
Your calf constitutes the upper half of the area below your knees and over your ankle. It is made up of 2 big muscles located in the rear area of the leg known as soleus and the gastrocnemius. The front portion of your lower leg comprises of the tibialis anterior muscle. In the absence of proper knowledge of your calves’ anatomy, you may find it difficult to properly exercise your lower leg, resulting in below par results from calf exercises. A weaker calf can make it quite difficult for you to stand properly and balance your body, resulting in instability and higher risk of ankle injury. Furthermore, weakened calf muscles can also result in complete immobility.
One of the highly neglected muscle groups of the human body, the calf muscles are very important for stability and balance, and must be brought into play every day via jumping, running and walking. They are also responsible for plantar flexion (pointing of the toes) as well as standing on the toes. Hence, whenever exercising your calf muscles, it is important for you to push them through their complete range of motion. But a large majority of people never bring about any variation in their calf exercises, thereby limiting their calves’ overall flexibility and strength potential.
You must exercise your calf muscles sufficiently and give them ample time to rest and recover. This is the only way they can grow and contribute to your everyday motion activities. However, indulging in excessive calf exercises like overloading the calf muscles to the point of exhaustion or working them for several days in a row can result in calf injuries or movement inability. Different calf exercises can be easily incorporated into your body’s overall or lower leg routine, or can even be done separately on their own. Please make it a point that you do calf exercises at least 2 to 3 times per week and with a minimum of 10 repetitions in every set. At least 3 sets are recommended per session.
Your gymnasium is most likely to have different machines that can be utilized for performing calf exercises. If used correctly, these machines can help you build your calf muscles significantly by increasing the amount of weight in every session. In addition, the workout machines specifically help people having problems in their backs or problems while standing, to work their calf muscles in a seated position. But if you’re not a regular at gym, or don’t have a gym membership at all, you can perform many different calf exercises at home without the need of any equipment or machine. Calf exercises are a must in any exercise routine for their overall firmness and development. Some of the well-known exercises that work your calf muscles are stair climbing, hiking, jogging, uphill running, normal running and sports activities like soccer, track & field, cycling and tennis.
Following are some popular calf exercises which can be easily done at home without the need of any equipment:
Top 10 Home Calf Exercises
Knee circling – Standing with both your feet and legs joined together, slightly bend your knees. Feel free to put your hands on the knees in case you feel you’re going out of balance. The hands can also be placed on the hips. Now, slowly start moving your knees in a circular motion, ensuring that the knees of both the legs are kept together during the entire movement. Repeat this 10 times, and then do it in the other direction for similar number of times.
Floorboard straight leg calf stretching – Stand in front of a wall and place your one foot up against it, as it’s heel remains on the ground. Make sure that the remaining part of your leg remains straight with your hands placed firmly on the wall. Now, start leaning into the wall and hold on for a minimum of 15 seconds. Thereafter, switch to your other leg and repeat it for the same amount of time. Do this exercise for a minimum of 3 times per leg in every session.
Ankle circling – This exercise can be performed in both standing and sitting position. Start by lifting one of your feet 6 inches above the ground and rotate your ankle in clockwise direction while keeping your whole leg (remaining part of it) stationary. Do this circling motion a minimum of 10 times. Thereafter, switch and repeat it in counterclockwise direction 10 times. Do this with your other leg when done.
Lunging – While standing straight, keeping your legs shoulder width apart, bring one of your feet forward in front of you. Now, move the rear foot in a way that it comes exactly in the same line as your front foot. Ensure that your back foot is kept straight. Keep your hands on the hips and bend your front knee keeping your back leg as straight as possible. Your heels must be kept firmly on the ground during this entire movement. Hold onto this position for a minimum of 10 to 20 seconds and then switch. Do a minimum of 3 sets for each leg.
Pike – Standing with your feet kept shoulder width apart, start bending your hips while your hands are placed on the ground, right in front of you (2 to 3 feet away, creating a reverse V position). Now, keep your legs straight and heels firmly planted on the floor. Stay in this position for around 20 seconds. Relax and then repeat.
Calf stretching with elbows against the wall – While standing around 2 – 3 feet away from a wall, lean against it with your forearms resting on it. Your heels must be kept straight on the ground. Hold onto this position for a minimum of 10 to 20 seconds and repeat it in 3 sets.
Calf stretching with hands against the wall – Maintaining a similar position as in the exercise above, place one of your feet forward. Now, bend the front knee, leaning forward and keeping your hands up against the wall. The heels must be kept firm on the ground. Maintain this position for a minimum of 10 to 20 seconds. Switch legs and repeat the same. Do 3 sets each for both the legs.
Calf raises on steps – Find some elevated surface, box or a step. Stand on it, keeping only the front section of your feet on it, and your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly start lowering down your heels towards the floor. Go down as much as possible and then rise up high on your toes. Then come back to the starting position. Ensure that this entire movement is kept fluid and slow. There is a tendency of gaining momentum while going up and down. Avoid doing that. Do a minimum of 10 repetitions per set and at least 3 sets.
Standing on toes – Stand straight with your feet joined together. In case you have problem balancing, stand at a hands distance from a wall, chair or a table, holding onto it. Now slowly rise up on your toes and hold onto your position for one to 2 seconds, followed by descending down to the starting position. Do a minimum of 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.
Balance board workout – Get hold of a balance board and try to balance yourself on it. In case you’re too bad at it, take help of another person, chair or a wall, to prevent a fall down. The whole idea is to maintain your balance as much as and as long as possible. Begin with a minimum of 30 seconds and slowly build up with time.
Some popular calf exercises in the gym
- Seated calf raises
- Standing calf raises
- Seated calf raises with a barbell
- Calf raises with the dumbbell
- Standing calf raises with a barbell
- Standing calf raises with the dumbbell
- Calf presses on a leg press machine