It can be difficult to grow your calf muscles, as they are not the easiest muscle group to target and often get neglected in favour of training other muscle groups. However, if you want your legs to be in proportion, it is important to work on building your calves. In this article we will be taking a look at five effective exercises for growing your calf muscles, but firstly it is important to understand the muscles that make up the calf.
THE CALF MUSCLE GROUPS
There are three muscle groups that make up your calf:
- The gastrocnemius muscle, which is responsible for giving your calf a rounded shape
- The soleus muscle, which is a longer, flatter muscles beneath the gastrocnemius which stretches down your leg
- The tibialis anterior, which is activated when you do activities when your toe is higher than your heel, such as walking up a hill
For optimal results, it is important to target both the gastrocnemius and the soleus.
EXERCISES TO BUILD YOUR CALF MUSCLES
1.) CALF RAISES
This is often the go-to exercise when people are trying to build their calf muscles and for good reason, as it targets the two muscles in your calf. When performed correctly, it is a highly effective exercise, but many people do not perform it with good form, and therefore minimise the positive effect of the exercise.
To carry out this exercise, take a step and place weights at either end of the step to add stability. You do not want the platform to move or tip when doing the exercise, as this could lead to injury. Standing on a step allows you to drop your heels lower than your toes increasing the range of motion.
Keep the balls of your feet on the step, drop your heels as low as possible and then drive up until they are as high as you can get them. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position to maintain time under tension.
Calf raises can be an effective exercise whatever your strength level may be. You can do them just with your bodyweight, whilst holding dumbbells or with a barbell to increase the resistance.
2.) SEATED CALF RAISES
For this exercise you will need to check that your gym has a calf exercise machine. Place the balls of your feet on the platform, select an appropriate weight and then lower your heel below the platform and drive back up to complete the rep.
This exercise can also be performed at home by sitting on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs and lean forward to increase resistance and then press up through the balls of your feet until you cannot push any higher. At this point slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
3.) CARDIO ACTIVITIES
You do not necessarily need to make use of weights to strengthen your calf muscles. There are a number of physical activities that can help build your calf muscles such as uphill running or walking.
An effective way to do this is to use a treadmill and set it on an incline. Then walk or run uphill and you will start to feel the burn in your calves. To increase the difficulty, simply increase the incline on the treadmill. Another great machine to make use of is the cycling machine, as the pressing motion puts strain on your calf muscles. The bikes in gyms will allow you to increase the resistance, making it more difficult.
Playing sports such as football, rugby and tennis are all great for building your calves, as they require explosive movements such as jumping and sharp changes of direction; this activates your calf muscles. Another activity which leads to muscle growth is dancing, as this often requires moving from low to high positions. It is a good idea to consider that you do not just have to shift weights to build your calves, and there are a number of activities which you can do to build your calves and improve your cardio.
NOW BUILD YOUR CALF MUSCLES
The good news about training calves is you do not have to dedicate loads of time to them to see results. An effective calf workout does not have to take much time. 20 minutes is more than substantial, and this means it can easily be added on to your workouts during the week.
Just setting aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of your workout to focus on some calf raises and uphill walking could make a big difference in terms of growing your calf muscles. Try these exercises next time you are in the gym and see how you find them.