Sexy calves are this season's must have. Forget your toned butt, tight abs and bulging biceps, a pair of well-defined calves can make your legs your best feature and your killer heels look even better. It's easy to avoid calf training in favor of working the bigger leg muscles -- your quads and hamstrings -- but this is a mistake. Hit your calves twice a week with a combination of free-weight, machine and cardio exercises.
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place the toes of your right foot on a low aerobic step. Cross your left leg behind your right and steady yourself with your left hand on the wall. Drop your right heel down as low as you can until you feel a big stretch in your calves, count to three, then forcefully stand up on your tiptoes and squeeze your muscles hard. Perform 12 reps on the right, then do the same on the left; repeat four times.
Switch from road running to hill sprints. Training on flat surfaces all the time can lead to a decrease in calf muscle size, particularly the soleus part of the calves, according to Dr. Johnny Lin of Midwest orthopaedics. Women don't suffer from this as much as men, as they often switch between flat and high-heeled shoes, but there's no doubt that hill training will do more for your calf muscle size. Instead of your steady jogs, find a fairly steep 30- to 40-yard hill, sprint up it as fast as you can and walk back down 10 to 15 times. Alternatively, if you train using a treadmill, incorporate different gradient settings into your routine.
Sit on the seated calf-raise machine and adjust the pad height so you start with your heels as low as they can go. Lift the pad up by pressing down with your toes, and pause at the top for three seconds, then lower under control. Do two sets of 15 to 20 reps. Seated calf raises hit a different portion of the calves than standing raises, which is why you should do both, notes personal trainer Chris Ball in "Real Solutions" magazine.
Start jumping rope. This kills two birds with one stone -- you hit your calves hard and get a great cardiovascular workout at the same time. Once you've mastered the technique and coordination try 60 seconds of jumping rope, followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated five times. For a real challenge, set a timer for 10 minutes and try to get as many jumps as you can In the time, aiming to set a new record each session. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet and maintain calf tension throughout.
- Combine your calf work with the rest of your leg training, or do it on a separate day.
- Aim to increase the weight, sets, reps or duration slightly each workout.
- Check with your health care provider before starting a training plan and ask a qualified gym trainer for help if you're not sure on exercise technique.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.