Toned, well-proportioned legs are certain to get noticed by many admirers, but if you neglect to exercise your calves, the only thing that will get noticed is a muscle imbalance. If you solely focus on working your upper legs because you don't consider your lower legs a problem area, your upper legs might seem huge in comparison to your shapeless calves. Not to worry -- even if you're part of the upper-leg-problem-area club, you can still work your calves by incorporating four sets of donkey calf raises into your workout.
Adjust the peg in the weight stack of the donkey calf raise machine to the desired weight, bend 90 degrees forward at your waist and position yourself in the apparatus; place your forearms on the designated pads, ensure the back pad is on your tailbone, and spread your feet about hip-width apart while balancing on the toes and balls of your feet on the edge of the footrest.
Tighten your abdominals to support your lower back and bend your knees slightly so you work both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Raise your heels as high as you can so your tush lifts up in the air against the resistance of the pad on your tailbone. Rest your weight in the front of your feet and imagine you're wearing high heels while holding the contraction in your calves for two seconds.
Lower your heels, going as far down as you comfortably can without lifting your toes or straightening your knees. Hold this position for two seconds and focus on the stretch in your calves. Repeat this exercise 15 times to complete one set. Do a second set of 12 repetitions, a third set of 10 repetitions and a fourth set of eight repetitions. Rest one minute after each set.
- Exhale as you raise your heels, and inhale as you lower them.
- If you don't have access to a donkey calf raise apparatus, bend 90 degrees forward at your waist and hold onto a sturdy object so you can comfortably maintain your bent-over stance. Position the toes and balls of your feet hip-width apart on the edge of a 5-inch-high step bench or other platform. For an extra challenge, have a friend sit on your lower back.
- To learn proper form, use minimal weight or just your body weight. As you get stronger, slowly increase the resistance, aiming to use enough weight so the last two or three repetitions of each set are difficult to finish.
- For variety, surprise your calves from time to time with standing and seated calf raises.
- Consult a doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have an injury or health condition.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.