Get Spring Ready With These 4 Calf-Carving Exercises

28/02/2018 - 10:06 AM

When we talk about leg workouts, most of our attention goes to the big muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, and our favorite, the gluteus maximus. But none of those groups get the job done without their neighbors to the south, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, aka your calf muscles. These two muscles pair up to create plantar flexion — your foot moving up and down. They make running, jumping, walking, and simply standing possible. Anytime you stand in one place, your calf muscles engage to provide stability. When you begin to move [1], they allow for powerful and purposeful forward and upward movement. That's a long way around to saying they deserve some fitness love too! The nice thing about them is that they are easy to isolate, quick to max out, and present that amazing sculpted muscle look we all want. Here are five ways to give your calf zone some much needed attention; you'll feel so good you'll want to break out your short shorts sooner than you'd planned!

Simple (but SO Effective) Standing Raises

Who said you needed a big scary machine to raise the bar on your calf strength? Standing calf raises have been the go-to training mechanism forever because they WORK. If you must have a fitness accessory to make it feel more "you," by all means, pick up a pair of hand weights, a kettle bell, or a weighted bar to add resistance to these movements.

To achieve muscular change, the muscle needs to be challenged, so be ready to add reps or weight until you experience a burning sensation in the back part of your lower leg. If you need help with balance, a light hand on a chair, wall, or other stable object is a good way to maintain your form without impacting your results.

Hop on the "Band"wagon

The key to finely tuned work on any muscle group is isolation. Using a resistance band is a quick and effective tool to control the amount of force required to do a fitness movement in your lower leg. Hold the straps at moderate tension for a beginner workout and progress to advanced by gradually wrapping the ends of the band around your hands, creating a tighter and tighter pull during the exercise.

The key to success is the grounding of the working leg AND keeping your back in a straight position the entire time. Allowing a C curve to form not only weakens your core, it encourages your straight leg to bend, releasing tension and defeating the purpose of the exercise. Stay strong and stay straight to get the most of this exercise. Add this into your stretching routine once a week.

Use a Sumo Squat to Isolate Your Calves

The Sumo squat is usually associated with tightening your inner thighs and testing your hip flexibility, you can also use it to create a seriously challenging calf exercise.

Depending on your endurance, do both sides two more times for a total of three sets per side. You can add these into your strength training routing as a stand alone exercise, or tack them onto a regular sumo squat: lower down to the sumo squat, lift the right then the left heel, return to standing. The bonus round is a balance challenge where you lift both heels as high as you can for 15-20 reps.

Step Up Your Calf Game

Elevation is always a great way to add more challenge into your workout. Find a high step, stable bench, or a large workout box before you begin and make sure it doesn't wobble or move.

If the initial set was too easy, consider adding hand weights, or hold a kettlebell while stepping up and down. Aim for 3-4 sets as part of your weekly weight training. You are doing weekly strength training [2], aren't you?

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