24 Apr 2017
5 min read
Ask any personal trainer about under-trained muscles, and a common answer among them will be ‘calves.’ One of the main reasons for this neglect is that most of us, especially ladies, do not aim for bulky calves. However, this is yet another fitness myth since the shape of our calf is determined by many factors—genetics being one of the major players. Thus it is not a given that dedicating yourself to more calf exercises will result in bulkier, muscular calves.
Allow me to skip the anatomy jargon and cut to the chase. The calf muscle is on the back of the lower leg and is made up of two muscles that merge at the bottom of the calf, which includes a tough connective tissue that joins the Achilles tendon. It is mostly responsible for extending your ankle and curling and pointing your toes.
I am sure you know by now that when I suggest something, I do so for good reason. And calf exercises are no exception. These are some of the benefits that you can expect to reap from your efforts.
- Avoid calf pulls: An Achilles tendon tear is one of the most common injuries that athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike suffer. This can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months to rehabilitate and heal properly. Training by stretching and strengthening your lower leg will aid in preventing such pulls.
- Become stronger: A stronger you means more stability, relaxed calf muscles and fewer injuries. Strengthening your calves helps to stabilise your ankles and feet, which subsequently prevents inward and/or outward turning of your feet.
- More personal pump and push: A basketball player? Work on your calves! Powerful calf muscles provide more energy in performing fast leg movements such as jumping and running.
- Calves look better: There is no doubt that a toned and defined calf will improve the overall appearance of your leg.
I’d like to suggest two #calvesgoals;
(a) More toned and muscular calves
- Calf raises: This is an extremely popular and effective move. Try both the standing and seated forms, to work on both muscles that make up your calf.
TRY: Standing calf raises: Stand with your feet hip-width apart near a wall or a chair (for more balance). Once you are stable, slowly lift your heels off the ground, making sure that your body is not leaning either forward or backward. As you raise yourself, tighten your abs, and hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 15-25 times. For the seated one, do the same while sitting on a chair or a stability ball. Make sure that you can comfortably place your feet on the ground while seated.
- Donkey calf raise (Advanced)
TRY: Rest the balls of your feet on the platform and lean over, forming an L shape with your body. Ask a partner to hop on your back, then raise your body on the balls of your feet. Hold the position for one to two seconds. Lower your body back to the starting position, and try to get a full stretch as you go.
- Stair calf raises
TRY: Start at the edge of the stairs with only 1/4th of the front of your foot actually on the stairs. Rest your heels off the stairs. Drive your toes into the stair until you reach as high as you are able to while ensuring that you do not lean either forward or backward. Keep your legs and feet straight throughout.
(b) Leaner/slimmer calves
- Avoid wearing heels: Wearing heels all the time results in shorter calf-muscle fibres and a thicker Achilles tendon.
- Simple resistance exercises: Avoid exercises that engage the calves muscles—exercises such as weighted leg curls and high-impact jumping exercises, like jumping rope. Instead, opt for moves like lunges.
- More aerobic activity: Many non-weight bearing workouts help burn calories without adding muscle mass to your legs. Try swimming and cycling.
- Yoga and pilates: These workouts help lengthen your muscles.