It's easy to get stuck in a rut when you train your legs. Traditionally, calf raises are performed with toes facing forward as you aim for a strong contraction in your lower leg. This exercise can be enhanced by changing the angles of the calf raise. One small change in the exercise gets you out of your rut and on your way to beautiful, shapely legs.
Whether you perform your calf raises from the floor, or from the edge of a step, you'll need proper technique for an effective workout. As a beginner, stand with your feet parallel and approximately hip-distance apart. The movement of the exercise is a simple shift of your weight onto the balls of your feet as you lift your heels as high as possible. You should feel the contraction in your calves as the muscles tighten to shorten the distance between your heels and knees.
Once you master the parallel foot position and your calves have developed endurance, change the angle of your feet. If parallel equals both feet facing toward a 12 o'clock position, turn your right foot to the right to 2 o'clock and your left foot to a 10 o'clock position. The muscle focus changes to the fibers of your calf muscles that are along the outsides of your lower legs.
The other angle of the calf raise is the opposite of the turned-out position. This time, point the toes of your right foot toward a 10 o'clock position and the toes of your left foot toward the 2 o'clock position. Performing the calf raise with your toes turned in concentrates on the muscle fibers of your calves that are along the insides of your lower legs.
Increase the challenge of your calf raise by performing it on one leg at a time. The effectiveness of the raise is also increased when you use one leg at a time off a stair or step. Always use a full range of motion; lower and lift your heels as far as possible so you work the calf through the entire angle. As your strength improves, hold onto a dumbbell in one or both hands for added resistance.
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.