There are two main groups of muscles around the shin: plantar flexors and dorsiflexors. The plantar flexors consist of the gastrocnemius medial head, gastrocnemius lateral head, soleus, plantaris, tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus, fibularis longus, and fibularis brevis. All of these muscles function to plantar flex, or extend, the ankle, causing the foot to point downward when standing or sitting. The dorsiflexors consist of the tibialis anterior, extensor digitorum longus, extensor hallucis longus, and fibularis tertius, all of which function to dorsiflex, or flex, the ankle, causing the foot to point upward when standing or sitting. To build the plantar flexors and dorsiflexors, you need to perform ankle extending and flexing exercises, respectively. You must do these exercises under resistance, which can be provided by free weights or machines.
Standing Machine Calf Raise (for Plantar Flexors)
Position your toes on the edge of the machine foot platform, keeping your heels off the platform.
Put your shoulders under the machine shoulder pads and stand with your body upright.
Grasp the machine handles for support.
Extend your ankles by pushing your feet down to raise your body as high as possible on your toes.
Flex your ankles to lower your heels until you feel a slight stretch in your plantar flexor muscles.
Seated Dumbbell Reverse Calf Raise (for Dorsiflexors)
Standing calf raise machine
For each exercise, use the heaviest weights you can handle to do three to five sets of 10 to 12 repetitions to failure, meaning until you cannot do additional reps per set. You should take a two-minute break between each set to allow the working muscles to recover. You can, however, perform back-to-back sets, known as supersets, with the calf raise and the reverse calf raise. In other words, perform a set of calf raises, followed by a set of reverse calf raises, then take a two-minute break, and repeat the sequence.
If you have not performed a resistance training program before, or have been away from the gym for a long time, consult with your health professional prior to starting this, or any, resistance exercise regimen.
Place an exercise platform in front of the flat bench. The exercise platform, also called an aerobics platform, is a rectangular piece of equipment with a flat surface, and its height is often adjustable. Choose a platform height of about 1 foot for this exercise.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, sit on the end of the flat bench, and position your heels on the outside edge of the middle of the exercise platform with your knees bent.
Place the dumbbells over your lower thighs.
Raise your feet as high as possible by flexing your ankles.
Lower your feet by extending your ankles until you feel a bit of a stretch in your dorsiflexors.
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Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.