Do you enjoy kickin' up your heels on a Saturday night? Thank your calf muscles. Or your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles to be exact. Together, this muscle duo is a superhero tour de force, helping your lower legs to move and your heels to lift. To develop these muscles, you need to do specific exercises. Be safe and check with a doctor before you begin an exercise routine.
Strength Calf Exercises
Two types of strength exercises will bulk up your calves -- seated and standing. According to Bodybuilding.com's Shannon Clark, the gastrocnemius muscle's main job is to flex the heel, so the ideal position for creating maximum size involves standing. Try standing calf raises using a wall for support. How then do you tone the soleus? Sit down, says Clark. Try seated calf raises and leg presses.
Athletic Calf Exercises
Who said you need a gym membership to get bigger calves? If you're doing those calf raises with a wall at home but excess weight's in the way, then hit the trails. Walking, jogging and running are excellent cardio options, and if you're able to find some hills, your calves will thank you for the added workout. Even cardio activities such as step aerobics and swimming can bulk up the calves. Remember, there is a genetic factor influencing calf size, warns Dr. Jason Karp, PhD, who is the director of REVO2LT Running Team. Play with the incline and intensity each time you walk or run, especially if your family isn't known for bulky calves.
Strength training for 20 to 30 minutes, two to three times a week, can keep your body in top-top shape. Only a portion of that time, though, should be spent on your calves. Remember, fitness is a whole-body affair. While Clark suggests doing three sets of 15 reps for seated calf reps, do enough sets to feel a tightness in your calves. The same goes for standing calf raises. Clark recommends four sets of eight reps, but you should stop earlier if you feel tightness or burning in the calf muscles.
Watch your form while doing strength exercises and start with slow, controlled reps. Once you've got these down, target the soleus with slow reps and quicken your pace for the gastrocnemius muscle, suggests Clark. Warm up for five to 10 minutes before working the legs. Stretch your lower legs with calf stretches.
- Bodybuilding.com: Calf Workout: Carve A Set Of Sexy Summer Calves
- American Council on Exercise: Standing Calf Raises - Wall
- Bodybuilding.com: Seated Calf Raise
- Fitness: Will Running Uphill Make My Calves Bigger?
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- MayoClinic.com: Slide Show: A Guide To 10 Basic Stretches
- MayoClinic.com: Weight Training: Improve Your Muscular Fitness
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.