Calf and Thigh Workouts Without Weights

Lunges hit your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

Lunges hit your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

It’s possible to build muscular strength without having to use any additional weights because your own body weight provides resistance that your muscles have to overcome. For a workout to thoroughly develop your calves, you need to target both your soleus and gastrocnemius muscles. To hit all of the major muscles in your thighs, you’ll need to complete exercises that recruit the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings.

Training Tips

The thigh and calf exercises can be combined into one complete lower-body strength-training workout. Schedule your workout at least two days per week, but no more than three. Your muscles need a day of rest in between workouts to recover, so don’t schedule them on back-to-back days. Because you’re using your own body weight as resistance and your body weight cannot be adjusted, complete each set of an exercise until your muscles become fatigued instead of for a set number of repetitions.

Gastrocnemius Exercises

Standing calf raises allow you to develop strength and size in your gastrocnemius muscle, the largest muscle in the calf. The gastrocnemius straightens your ankle joints while your knees are straight, which is the position you’re in when you’re standing. You can increase or decrease the difficulty of the standing calf raise to coincide with your current training status. Traditional standing calf raises are performed with both feet firmly on the floor. With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift up your heels by rising up on the balls of your feet, getting up as high as you can. Take your time as you lower your heels back down. This exercise can also be completed one leg at a time, which forces each calf to take on double the weight. Another way to increase the challenge of the exercise is to do it on the edge of a step or ledge. Set your feet so your heels are hanging off the edge. Lower your heels down first, and then rise up onto the balls of your feet. Target the inside of your calf muscle by pointing your toes inward while doing the exercise and target the outside by pointing your toes outward.

Soleus Exercises

The soleus muscle is the smaller of the two muscles in the calves and it’s responsible for straightening your ankles when your knees are bent. A body-weight exercise to hit your soleus is a calf raise exercise from a bridge position. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push your heels up off the floor by rising up onto the balls of your feet. Slowly lower them down to the floor. To increase the intensity, pick up and hold your hips off the floor while you perform the exercise. This increases how much of your body weight your soleus has to overcome.

Thigh Exercises

There are many thigh exercises that will effectively develop the muscles in your thighs, which include the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings, including squats and lunges. For squats, set your feet shoulder-width apart, then push your hips back and bend your knees, lowering your thighs down until they’re parallel with the floor, and then rise back up. Add a power element to the exercise by exploding out of the squat into a jump. You can also add calf involvement by rising up out of the squat into a calf raise. When performing lunges, challenge your thigh muscles by focusing on one leg at a time. Take a large step with one foot and then bend your back knee to lower down into a lunge. Return your foot back to the starting position and then step forward again with the same leg.

 

About the Author

Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.

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