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5 Calf exercises to strengthen and tone

Published March 19, 2019 (Revised: April 23, 2020) Read Time: 7 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "", "image": "" } }, "headline":"5 Calf exercises to strengthen and tone", "datePublished":"2019-03-19", "dateModified": "2020-04-23", "description":"Having strong, toned calves is a common fitness goal. Aside from just looking good, calf strength and ankle mobility play a crucial role in our everyday lives.", "image": "" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "Where Is Your Calf Muscle?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Just like other big muscle groups in your legs (the glutes and hamstrings, for example), what we call our ‘calf muscle’ is actually two muscles that work together. These two muscles are called the gastrocnemius and the soleus." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Why Should I Strengthen My Calf Muscles?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Strengthening the calves can make it easier to climb stairs, go for walks, dodge somebody on the sidewalk, step off a curb and other everyday movements. Calf exercises are designed to strengthen muscles and protect the smaller tendons and ligaments in your feet and ankles. Weak calf muscles lead to muscle strains, pulled muscles, injuries to your feet, and even muscle tears, all of which make walking incredibly difficult." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What are the best exercises for calves?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Here are 5 of the best calf exercises you can do to strengthen and tone those legs: 1. Walking, 2. Fast Jumping Jacks, 3. Sit to hops, 4. Single Leg Stand, 5. Standing Calf Rocks" } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Where Is Your Calf Muscle?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Why Should I Strengthen My Calf Muscles?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How To Tone Your Calves</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">What Are The Best Exercises For Calves?</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Main Takeaway</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Stability, agility, coordination and balance are all benefits that come with having strong calf muscles, and as we age these things become even more important.</p> <p>But, can strengthening your calves be simple as adding a few exercises to your workout routine?</p> <p>In this article we’ll discuss what factors contribute to building calf muscles, why strong calves are important, and five calf exercises you can do to tone and strengthen your lower legs.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>Where Is Your Calf Muscle?</h2> <p>Just like other big muscle groups in your legs (the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">glutes</a> and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">hamstrings</a>, for example), what we call our ‘calf muscle’ is actually two muscles that work together. These two muscles are called the <i>gastrocnemius</i> and the <i>soleus</i>.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="calf muscles diagram"> <h3>Gastrocnemius</h3> <p>The gastrocnemius (just call it the ‘gastroc’) is the larger rounded muscle you’re probably calling your calf.</p> <p>The muscle helps us with things like jumping, acceleration, and quick speed and power.</p> <h3>Soleus</h3> <p>The soleus is the smaller, flatter muscle located deep beneath the gastrocnemius and contributes to things like walking and running endurance<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>.</p> <p>Although it isn’t considered part of the muscles that make up your calves, it’s important to highlight the muscle in front of your calf called the Tibialis anterior<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup>. This muscle helps you to flex your ankle and foot off the ground. Picking up your toes, also known as <i>dorsiflexion</i>, causes you to eccentrically load the calf muscles which is essential for strengthening and toning. When you walk, run, or jump, the calf muscles pull your feet up which allows forward motion.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Why Should I Strengthen My Calf Muscles?</h2> <p>Strengthening the calves can make it easier to climb stairs, go for walks, dodge somebody on the sidewalk, step off a curb and other everyday movements.</p> <p>Calf exercises are designed to strengthen muscles and protect the smaller tendons and ligaments in your feet and ankles. Weak calf muscles lead to muscle strains, pulled muscles, injuries to your feet, and even muscle tears, all of which make walking incredibly difficult.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup></p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>How to tone your calves</h2> <p>Strong, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">lean</a> calf muscles look great. You’re not alone if your goal is to tone your lower legs. But toning takes more than just exercise: diet plays a crucial role in the results you’re looking for<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup>.</p> <h3>Your Diet</h3> <p>Just like the age old saying “ab's are made in the kitchen”, the same thing applies to your calves. Well, your whole body really. You might have super-strong calf muscles, but without a relatively low body-fat percentage, they won’t have that toned, lean appearance you’re looking for.</p> <h3>Genetic factors</h3> <p>We all know someone that has “great legs” right? Sharply defined calf muscles that look like they spent hours in the gym.</p> <p>But what if we told you that they were born with those? Ok, not literally, but it’s true that genetics plays a role in your muscle make up. The number of Type I and Type II muscle fibers you have can determine the natural size and definition of your calves.</p> <p><strong>Type I</strong> muscle fibers tend to have more endurance and don’t tire as easily, however, they also have less growth potential than Type II.</p> <p><strong>Type II</strong> muscle fibers, also known as “fast twitch” tend to have a higher growth potential and allow us to see faster results when trying to strengthen and tone.</p> <p>So does that mean someone that has more Type I fibers can’t tone and build calf strength? Not at all.</p> <p>If you weren’t born with defined calves, don’t stress. Genes play a role in your muscle make up , but they won’t prevent you from increasing definition and strength, it just might take a little more work.</p> <p>Consistency, the right exercises and a healthy diet will all help you achieve the results you’re looking for.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>What are the best exercises for calves?</h2> <p>Here are 5 of the best calf exercises you can do to strengthen and tone those legs.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="walking calf exercise"> <h3>1. Walking</h3> <p>If you’ve been around Warrior Made, you know how much we love walking. In fact, we believe it’s one of the best exercises you can do.</p> <p>Walking is extremely underrated as an exercise. Walking (especially up stairs) is great for the muscles in your feet, calves and is even great for the lymphatic system<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup>. </p> <p><i>If you want to step up your walking game, try changing the surface you are walking on to vary training (sand, grass, rocks, uphill, downhill...).</i></p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Fast Jumping Jacks"> <h3>2. Fast Jumping Jacks</h3> <p><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Jumping Jacks</a> are good for lateral training to increase stability, agility and coordination. Adding speed to them will help boost your metabolism and help with adding lean muscle. </p> <p>To do a jumping jack, start with your feet together. Jump and spread your feet laterally, pushing off your toes. Try and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">feel your glutes</a>. At the same time, your hands move laterally above your head. Step to the other side. Here is a full tutorial on how to do <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">jumping jacks</a> with proper form. </p> <p><i>Challenge: try to do as many jumping jacks as you can in 1 minute, then rest for 30 seconds. Do this for 5 rounds!</i></p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Sit to hops"> <h3>3. Sit to hops</h3> <p>The sit to hop shares many benefits with the squat including: increasing lower-body strength, improving flexibility, and even boosting your metabolism. The advantage of the sit to hop is the explosive leap. This addition to the squat will fire your calves as well as the other muscle groups in your legs.</p> <p>To do a sit to hop </p> <ol> <li>Stand directly in front of a couch or chair.</li> <li>Push your butt back, bend your knees, and bring your arms up in front of you. Lower yourself until you’re seated on the chair. </li> <li>Rock your body forward slightly and use that momentum to begin to stand. Once you’re off the chair, jump straight upwards and bring your arms down to your side.</li> <li>Land softly with a slight bend in the knees, then immediately drop into the next repetition.</li> <li>Continue until you’ve reached the desired number of repetitions.</li> </ol> <p>For beginners, we suggest starting out with the sit to stand before moving on to the sit to hop.</p> <ol> <li>Stand in front of your couch and lower yourself down until you’re seated. </li> <li>Press through the heels to stand back up rather than adding that extra jump.</li> </ol> <p>This will help you to establish good form and start to build lower body strength so you can take on the sit to hop later.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Single Leg Stand"> <h3>4. Single Leg Stand</h3> <p>Practicing standing on one leg is a great way to train balance in the lower leg and improve strength. Single leg stands not only help strengthen your calf muscle, they also increase balance and stabilization of the ankle, knee and hip joints.</p> <p>Single leg stands are as simple as they sound. Bring one foot off the ground and balance. Keep the standing leg straight. An unlocked knee forces the stabilizer muscles around the joint to work harder, which puts less pressure on your joints. </p> <p>Position yourself next to a door or table so you can grab hold if necessary.</p> <p><i>If you are looking for an extra challenge with this exercise try adding an unstable surface (pillow) or throwing and catching a ball against a wall while balancing.</i></p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src=" CALF ROCKS.gif" alt="Standing Calf Rocks"> <h3>5. Standing Calf Rocks</h3> <p>Maybe you’re in your living room and want to workout <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">in between commercials</a>. Here’s a calf exercise you can do anywhere: Standing Calf Rocks. </p> <p>Position yourself near a wall or a chair in case you need something to hold onto. Start standing upright with good posture and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly push through your toes and elevate your heels off the ground. Hold at the top for one to three seconds, From there, allow your feet to come back down and "rock" back onto your heels.</p> <p>From your heels, go back to your toes. Keep this cycle going.. If your goal is toned muscles, be diligent about the pause at the top.</p> <p><i>If you are looking for something even easier, but still effective, try seated calf rocks. These are exactly the same as standing but your feet will be out in front of you.</i></p> <h3>Bonus Stretch</h3> <p>As important as it is to exercise your calf muscles, it is equally as important to make sure you are properly stretching them. Having tight calves is relatively common, and can limit your ankle mobility and potentially increase the possibility of injuries. One way to help prevent this is by making sure you are stretching and working on flexibility and mobility regularly. </p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src=" ONE LEG CALF STRETCH.gif" alt="Kneeling One Leg Calf Stretch"> <h3>Kneeling One Leg Calf Stretch</h3> <ol> <li>Keep your hips forward, don’t let them twist from side to side</li> <li>Drive your heel down into the ground as you bring your knee forward to deepen the stretch</li> <li>When you look down, make sure your knee goes the same direction as your toes</li> <li>Breathe deep into your belly and give a big relaxing exhale as you go from position to position and try to go a little further on every rep</li> </ol> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>Main takeaway</h2> <p>Having great legs is more important than what you see on the outside. Strong calf muscles are essential for everyday movements and protect us from injuries as we age. </p> <p>Strengthening and toning your calves will be different for everyone, and based on genetics may come easier to some than others. The key is to be consistent, target your calves with effective exercises and eat a clean diet so your results show.</p> </section> </article>

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