Well-toned calf muscles go a long way toward creating shapely gams. Your two major calf muscles -- the gastrocnemius and soleus -- both point your foot away from the body. If you're standing, they raise your heels. Because you use them every time you take a step, they're powerful muscles. To make body weight calf exercises more effective, you can add resistance by using ankle weights.
Standing Calf Raises
Standing calf raises are a versatile shank-shaper that you can do almost anywhere. After strapping on your ankle weights, stand on a block, stair step or raised platform, with your heels hanging over the edge. You may need to hold on to a support such as a stair railing, stable chair or the wall for balance. Lower your heels toward the floor until you feel a stretch, and then lift them as high as possible. Keep your upper body upright and knees straight throughout.
One-Legged Calf Raise
For a more intense calf-burning workout, practice standing leg raises on one leg at a time. Strap your ankle weights to the leg you're working. Step with that foot onto a block or stair step, hanging your heel off the edge. Because it can be harder to balance yourself on one leg, you may need to hold onto a stable chair, stair railing or the wall for support. Lower your heel until you feel a stretch in the calf, and then lift the heel as high as you can. While you are doing that movement, hold your other leg slightly behind you in the air.
Seated Calf Raises
Unlike standing calf raises, which target both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, seated calf raises focus on the soleus. Although the soleus is less visible than the gastroc, developing it will add to the curvaceousness of your calves. While wearing your ankle weights, sit on a bench or the edge of a chair. Place the balls of your feet on a block, with your heels hanging off. Lower your heels toward the floor until you feel a stretch, and then raise the heels as high as possible.
Although they're often done to work the hamstrings, leg curls also target the gastrocs. Attach your ankle weights and lie on your belly on a bench. Your knees will be at the edge of the bench with your shins hanging off. Keep your feet flexed. If your feet are pointed, the exercise works the hammies rather than the calves. Prop your upper body up on your forearms. Bend one knee, pulling your foot toward your butt, and then extend the leg to return to the starting position.
- ExRx.net: Calves
- Women's Strength Training Anatomy; Frederic Delavier
Joe Miller started writing professionally in 1991. He specializes in writing about health and fitness and has written for "Fit Yoga" magazine and the New York Times City Room blog. He holds a master's degree in applied physiology from Columbia University, Teacher's College.