When you plan out you lower body workouts, you might focus on your glutes and quads, but what about those calf muscles found down the back of your legs?
Here’s why you should. First, a quick anatomy lesson: your calves are actually made up of two main muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus. Building strong calves helps with power and explosivity, which benefits athletes who want to run faster and jump higher. If HIIT workouts are your thing, strong calves can help with stabilization during those explosive moves peppered into your routine.
Convinced it might be time to add a calf workout into your regular routine? We tapped Heather Marr, CPT to give us the low-down on the importance of working your calf muscles and provide you calf exercises to add to your next workout. Read on, then get to work!
Why is it important to work your calf muscles?
Strong calves boost athletic performance and power, improve stability in the ankles and feet, and may prevent injury. Calf exercises may be added at the end of your workouts or as a workout all its own to strengthen the lower legs.
“Whether you’re a runner, you play team sports like volleyball or are just concerned with muscular symmetry, calf training should not be ignored,” Marr says.
What is the best way to build calf muscles?
While there is no one best way to build calf muscles, staying consistent with your training is key. Be sure that you’re performing exercises targeting the area on a regular basis, and with time you will see and feel results.
“It's important to perform quality repetitions of the exercises, with good range of motion and focusing on really using the calves. Don’t cheat,” says Marr.
Playing sports such as tennis, basketball or baseball or adding in hill sprints or running stairs to your training are all excellent ways to challenge your calves.
Can you train calves every day?
Like any other workout, how many times per week you do it depends on your personal fitness levels and goals. While you can incorporate moves into your daily workouts (and you likely already do if you’re jumping, running or squatting), if you do a workout solely focused on your calves, you should be sure to give your legs a rest to recover.
Build Stronger Calves In Just 5 Moves
Try this calf workout created by Marr as part of your next leg day.
How to do it: Complete each move for the suggested number of reps. Repeat the entire circuit three times, resting as necessary. You’ll need a platform you can use to slightly elevate yourself off the ground and a resistance band. You can do these moves with body weight or modify to make them more challenging using weights.
Lively Note: You can choose a few of these exercises to be performed several times a week as part of your workout or complete the circuit as your workout.
Standing Calf Raise
What this move works: A Standing Calf Raise targets the calf, mainly the gastrocnemius (the calf muscle you can see).
Place the balls of your feet onto a platform, with heels hanging off and toes pointing forward. Be sure to keep your legs and knees facing forward. Slowly lower heels toward the ground as you breathe in, until the calves are fully stretched. Pause, then raise your heels up, squeezing your calves as you breathe out. Be sure not to bounce. That’s one rep. Repeat, to Complete 15 reps.
To make this move harder, you can hold dumbbells at your sides.
Seated Calf Raise
What this move works: A Seated Calf Raise targets the calf, mainly the soleus (the muscle below the gastrocnemius).
Start seated on a bench, with the balls of your feet resting on a platform with heels hanging off and toes pointing forward. Keep your legs and knees bent throughout the exercise. Breathe in as you slowly lower your heels toward the ground until the calves are fully stretched. Pause, then raise your heels up, squeezing your calves as you breath out. Be sure not to bounce. That is one rep. Repeat to complete 15 reps.
To make this move harder, you can hold dumbbells on your thighs.
Seated Band Push
What this move works: A Seated Band Push targets the calves.
Begin by sitting down with your legs extended straight out in-front of you. Loop the resistance band around the balls of your feet, holding one end of the band in each hand. Use your calves to press the band away from you as you breathe out. Slowly return to the starting position while breathing in. That is one rep. Complete 20 reps.
Farmer’s Walk On Toes
What this move works: A Farmer’s Walk targets the calves.
Start standing, holding a heavy weight in each hand at your sides. Then, raise your heels off the floor so that you are on the balls of your feet. Be sure you are standing tall, then walk forward, engaging calves, keeping chest high.
Walk for 30 seconds in one direction, then turn back and walk 30 seconds to return to starting position. Repeat 3 times.
What this move works: Jumping Rope targets your calves and helps to elevate your cardio.
Begin holding one end of a jump rope in each hand. Next, jump and down on your toes performing fast, small hops to jump over the rope as you swing it. Be sure to focus on engaging your calves to hop. Jump rope continuously for 60 seconds.
If you don’t have a jump rope, hold your hands at your sides to mimic swinging a jump rope and jump over the invisible rope.
Vital Note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.