Single leg calf raises work both muscles in your calves -- your gastrocnemius and your soleus. The gastrocnemius gets most of the workout, but your soleus won't mind because they are quite happy assisting in the movement. The single leg calf raise -- which works one leg at a time, rather than both legs, as in the conventional calf raise -- is especially beneficial if you have a muscle imbalance that makes you compensate for your weaker calf when you use both legs at the same time. After all, having even-sized calves is a huge plus when wearing a dress or shorts, whether you're donning your flashy 4-inch heels or not.
Set up a calf block -- or any other type of step that will not tip -- in front of a sturdy chair, desk, banister or other piece of furniture you can hold onto.
Step up onto the calf block with your right foot positioning your toes and the ball of your foot on the block while letting the arch of your foot and heel hang back over the edge.
Bend your left leg so that your foot is behind you and out of the way.
Grasp your sturdy object with one of your hands to keep your balance throughout the exercise. Keep your head high, shoulders back and abs tight. This is your starting position.
Raise your right heel as high as you can by extending your ankle until you are standing on your toes and ball of your foot.
Lower your right heel as low as you can by flexing your ankle. Repeat eight to 12 reps. Rest for 30 seconds.
Perform the same exercise using your left leg. Again, do eight to 12 reps.
Complete two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions to improve the muscular strength and endurance in your calves. If that gets too easy, hold a dumbbell in one of your hands to add more resistance.
- If you have trouble balancing or you do not feel comfortable balancing on one foot, perform the same exercise but with both feet at the same time.
- Always consult your physician prior to starting a new exercise program.
Jacquelyn Slater is a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist and group fitness instructor. Slater earned a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Slippery Rock University and a Master of Sciece in health and fitness from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently serves as the health and wellness director at the Titusville YMCA.