Jogging on a treadmill while watching the news will not get you larger calves. Doing strength and power training, however, will develop your calf muscles while boosting your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day, no matter what you are doing. Although some of these workouts may be challenging at first, they become easier to do the more you practice them. Change your workouts every four to six weeks to prevent exercise plateaus and boredom.
Jump-roping develops your calves while improving endurance, posture and coordination. All you need is a beaded or leather jump rope and enough space to swing the rope. Start with the bounce step, which is hopping with your feet together. Land on the balls of your feet and your toes while keeping your chest up as you hop. Hop at a rate of two hops per second for 30 to 60 seconds. Once you are familiar with the bounce step, progress to the single-leg hop where you lift one knee toward your ribs and hop on the standing leg. Hop at a rate of two hops per second for 30 to 60 seconds on each leg. Try hopping in different directions while doing the bounce step or the single-leg hop -- hop back and forth, side to side or diagonally from your starting point.
If you ever look at professional sprinters' thighs and calves, you notice that their legs tend to be much more muscular than long-distance runners. Sprinting involves high-intensity, short-distance running that relies heavily on the body's anaerobic system. This condition stimulates your leg muscles to grow as they adapt to sprinting, says athletic coach Vern Gambetta, author of "Athletic Development." The basic sprinting drill is the linear sprint, where you run as fast as you can between two points. Place two cones about 25 to 30 yards apart on a running track or turf, and stand near one of the cones. Sprint toward the opposite cone and slow down only after you have run past the second cone. Every week, increase the distance by five yards until eventually you attain 50 yards. There is no limit on how far you can sprint. Set your own weekly goals as you notice size changes in your calves.
Traditional Strength Training
Squat, lunges, step-ups and standing calf raises also increase muscle size in your calves. These exercises also teach you to move your calves together with other muscle groups rather than in isolation. For each exercise, perform three sets of eight to 12 reps with a minute of rest in between sets. If you can perform the maximum number of reps easily, increase the weight, suggests strength coach Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance." Decrease the weight if you cannot perform the minimum number of reps.
Plyometrics is a form of explosive movement training that works on strength and speed combined. Like sprinting, the anaerobic nature of plyometrics stimulates muscle growth and improves how fast a muscle group produces strength in the shortest amount of time, says the IDEA Fitness Journal. A plyometric workout for your calves may include box jumps, power step-ups, lunge jumps and long jumps. You may even combine these exercises with short-distance sprinting and jump-roping. For example, perform 10 box jumps followed by two sets of 20-yard linear sprints. Rest for two to three minutes before doing this combo two more times.
- Athletic Development; Vern Gambetta
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Look Before You Jump
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.