Do you wonder why your legs look small even though it is evident to your quads that you never missed a leg workout? Well, maybe the answer lies in how well-developed and defined the other muscles are. When we do not consider other muscles like our calves when training lower body parts, there may be an imbalance of development which can cause them to appear underwhelming while working out upper body parts such as arms or back.
This article will discuss the exercises you may perform that target your calf muscles to get that defined lower body look.
The Calf Muscle And Its Purpose
The calf is the muscle that can be found at the back of our lower legs. The gastrocnemius, a fast-twitch type of muscle, and soleus, a slow-twitch type, are the two major muscles in this area responsible for the ankle joint’s primary plantar flexor (the downward movement of the foot away from the body).
Typically, the calf muscles are used whenever we do movements where we bend our ankles downward, such as jumping ropes, running, and walking. Some examples of martial arts that use the calf muscles more are boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling which continuously requires an athlete to move and stay mobile, giving them the ability to quickly accelerate or shift direction.
Sometimes Looks Can Be Deceiving
You may have a friend whose calves look huge but rarely exercise – this is normal, by the way. Genetics plays a role in our muscle composition, which means that how your muscles look can depend on not only your workout (or lack thereof) but also your genes.
Take Usain Bolt, for example. Many consider him one of the greatest sprinters of all time, but he has an average-sized calf. Do not be discouraged by this fact! We all have the potential to grow our muscles, so keep training and make your muscles as strong as they could be.
Exercises To Train The Calf Muscles
Setting aside your genetic potential, performing isolation exercises specifically for your calf muscles is necessary if you want it to grow. Doing running sports will also help you train your calf muscles. Below are the exercises you may perform to train your calf muscles.
1) Standing Calf Raises
The standing calf raises is a versatile exercise for your calf muscles as it can be done anywhere. It can be performed with a machine in the gym, a barbell, or a dumbbell. You can even just your body weight, and it is just as effective.
To perform the bodyweight standing calf raises, stand shoulder-width apart and slowly lift your body, leaving only your toes in contact with the floor. Hold for about two seconds at the top while squeezing the calf before slowly going down in a controlled motion. Initially, do this for about 10-15 reps for 3-5 sets, and as you progress, you can do this exercise for about 100 reps every day for a month and see the results yourself!
The barbell standing calf raises is similar to the starting position of a barbell back squat. To perform this exercise, grab a bar and put it on your back as if you are about to do a barbell squat. Stand shoulder-width apart and grab the barbell without bending your wrist. Slowly lift your body with your toes and hold at the top before slowly going down.
2) Box Jump
The box jump is a good exercise to work your calf muscles and explosiveness. This exercise can also be performed on the stairs; you just have to do it with caution.
Initially, to perform the box jump, stand shoulder-width apart, and set the box not too far from yourself to avoid falling over. Bend your legs and think of it as a spring. Before jumping, your hands must be at the side of your body, pointing on the ground and explosively lift it with your body as you jump upwards in the direction of the box to avoid counterbalancing.
Make sure the box is not too high for you to jump, and maintain the athletic position once you land at the top of the box.
3) Jump Rope
Jumping rope is one of the most famous and effective aerobic exercises as it trains not just your cardio but also the coordination of your body. This exercise can be performed conveniently and requires nothing else but the rope.
To perform this exercise, stand a little bit closer than shoulder-width, and keep your elbows and arm close to the body. Jump not too high to get the perfect timing repeatedly to avoid stepping on the rope. Remember to always keep your chin up to breathe better. Jumping rope is a fun exercise as it can be performed with different variations.
4) Hill Sprint
Incline running is one of the classic aerobic exercises. Sprinting up a hill or incline treadmill is a difficult but rewarding way to work your calf muscles, besides the fact that it helps boost your cardio and overall leg strength.
Although this exercise can also be done using a treadmill or inclined surface, hill sprint is best performed out on a hill with nature to be able to breathe better quality of air.
5) Farmer’s Walk On Toes
The farmer’s walk on toes is an effective exercise as it hits both your calf muscles and grip strength. Typically, a farmer’s walk is done by holding a trap bar, pair of dumbbells, barbell plates, or a kettlebell. This exercise is not only good for the calves, it also mimics our daily tasks such as lifting the groceries from the car into our home.
To perform the farmer’s walk on toes, grab a pair of weights, stand straight, pull your shoulders back and down. Start walking tiptoe while carrying a pair of weights, maintaining proper posture with your head looking straight.
The calf muscles are one of the most active muscles in our body. It gets used daily even just by standing off the bed and walking into the shower. It is also often a neglected part when training the legs as the calf muscles are not that noticeable. The size of the calf muscle does not dictate its effectiveness to produce strength and power, however. Always remember, just like when working any other muscles in our body, it is important to stretch the calf muscles before and after the workout session.
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