Our calf muscles are integral for lower limb movement; they move us forward with every step and also absorb impact and load. Muscular calves mean you will be able to walk and run faster and enjoy greater lower limb stability. When training the calf, you want to be sure to train both muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus form each calf. Be patient, these muscles are notoriously stubborn to develop, so you will need to be diligent.
The gastrocnemius muscle is the larger of the two and the muscle that we can see, and it has two “heads.” The soleus lies below the gastrocnemius and is smaller. Both muscles pull up on our heels to provide us with the forward propulsion of movement.
Aim for 12-15 repetitions of each exercise, and try for three sets. If you can complete this with ease, increase your resistance slightly. You can also try for a lighter weight warm-up set, followed by two more sets with heavier resistance. If you want to build bulk, go heavy on your resistance, aim for 5-10 repetitions and 3-5 sets. Remember to rest for half a minute to a few minutes between each set.
There are a few different options for the standing calf raise in terms of equipment. Your local gym may offer a standing calf raise machine; these are relatively simple to use, and most provide how-to instructions via a picture on the device. Alternatively, you can make the same move with dumbbells or resistance tubing. Be sure to push through to the floor as you move up onto the balls of your feet; you will notice a contraction in the calves. Then, lower yourself down slowly until your heels are back on the floor.
Think Rocky Balboa. Jump rope or skipping is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise and a super total body workout. When done right, skipping rope is also an efficient exercise to build calf strength and endurance. In addition, the movement allows for the calves to work dynamically, resulting in lean, toned calf muscles. Other benefits of skipping rope include improving your coordination, improved bone density, and a reduced risk of foot and ankle injuries.
Squats and the more powerful and challenging jump squats are ideal for developing lower leg strength and power. This move will develop the muscles quickly and provide you with explosive force. However, this exercise may not be for everyone; you should avoid this movement if you have any pain or lessened mobility in your hips, knees, or ankles.
This move is available via machine, free weights, and resistance tubing like the standing calf raise. The movement is similar to the standing calf raise, but it eliminates the involvement of the upper body, which is ideal if your upper body requires rest or if it is recovering from an injury. In addition, calf raises will build strength, endurance, and explosiveness. Further, the movement can help improve your stability through your ankle.
5) Farmer’s Walk:
The farmer’s walk is a simple, straightforward exercise that only requires you to walk and be able to hold a dumbbell in each hand. Do not allow the dumbbells to rest on your thighs, and stand tall as you walk, with your shoulder blades pulled back. If you want to engage your calf muscles even more, walk on your toes with your heels raised and off the ground.
After training your calves, be sure to stretch both the gastrocnemius and the soleus thoroughly. Failing to stretch either or both of these muscles entirely will result in tightness, soreness, and pain. This can, unfortunately, negatively impact your sports performance and mobility. Further, a great stretch and self-massage session will reduce your risk of post-exercise soreness.