We’ve gathered six of our favorite calf workout exercises to start getting some serious lower leg definition. Read ahead for our top picks!
The calves might not be the largest major muscle group in your body, but they have the potential to add a lot of definition to your legs. In a culture that loves high heels, sculpted calves are a sought-after trait.
Perhaps that’s why we have a tendency to torture our feet, knees, and lower backs to wear them. Did you know high heels actually work out your calves? But at what cost?
You probably won’t be surprised to find out that there are far better calf workout exercises to tone these muscles than by risking ankle injuries and falls. 🙂
1. Seated Calf Raises
No need for fancy gym equipment for this exercise. You’ll be able to use your own weight to complete it effectively. (It might sound crazy, but sitting on the toilet would be a great time to knock this exercise out!)
Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to sit with good posture, resting your elbows at your hips and your forearms on your thighs. Raise your heels from the floor while balancing on the balls of your feet, and hold it momentarily. This position is what the professionals call “plantar flexion”.
Take three times as long to slowly lower your heels back to the floor. Repeat these raises 15 more times.
2. Standing Calf Raises
You knew it was coming. This exercise mimics standing in heels, but only for short periods of time, making this a much friendlier exercise for your back and feet. It works out the entirety of your calves and adds in a stretch.
You will need a short stool or step (and possibly a chair or wall for balance) to perform this exercise. Your heels will be hanging off the step as you balance on the balls of your feet.
Raise up on your toes (hey there, plantar flexion), and pulse three times. Now lower your heels below the level of the step to stretch your Achilles tendon. Repeat 15 more times.
3. Elevé to Relevé
This exercise name comes from the French words for “to bring up” and “to raise”. If you’ve ever learned ballet, these terms may be familiar.
To elevé, raise high on the balls of your feet with your knees straight. Keeping your heels raised, slowly bend your knees and drop your tailbone. This position is named relevé.
Return to elevé by straightening your knees once more. Lower your heels to rest on the ground, and repeat 15 more times.
Bonus: you can increase the intensity of this exercise by holding weights.
4. Hill Trek
Find a hill outside or set a treadmill to an incline. If on a treadmill, set your pace to 3.5 – 4.2 miles per hour (MPH) for a nice power walk, or 4.3+ MPH for a hill jog. If outside, walk or jog at a brisk pace up the hill and walk down it. Keep this up for about 10 minutes.
To make your hill trek tougher, add a 10-pound weighted vest.
(While you’re here, check out our top 5 list of folding treadmills)
5. Sled Push
This exercise may remind you of a child pushing a toy car across the room with his/her whole body.
Place a durable item with a smooth surface (like a bench) with its smooth side down on the floor. Hold onto either side of the item and bend at the hips with a neutral spine. Get traction with your feet and push the item to the opposite side of the room at a slight jog. Move to the opposite side of the item, and push it to your starting spot in the room. Repeat this 15 times.
If the item is too easy to push, place a couple of weighted plates securely on top or inside it. If you find the item too heavy, you could use a pillow you don’t care too much about instead. Keep in mind that pushing a shorter item like a pillow may create more back pain since you will have to bend further toward the ground.
6. Jump Rope
Think about it. Jumping in place is essentially doing plyometric calf raises, which makes this exercise an effective lower leg workout.
If you’ve never used your jump rope before, first make sure it’s the appropriate length for your height by standing in the center of the rope and holding the handles toward your shoulders. If the base of the handles reach slightly higher than your armpits, the rope is an ideal length for you.
If it’s too long, you can either shorten the rope by knotting it or looping it around your hands until it reaches an acceptable length. Do not use too short of a rope.
Hold one handle in each hand at either side of your waist and step so that the rope rests just behind your heels. Swing the rope over your head. Once the rope hits the floor in front of you, simply jump high enough to clear the rope as you swing it over your head again. Save energy by moving the rope mostly with your wrists rather than with your shoulders.
See how long you can jump before tripping over the rope!
Let’s face it: it’s superficial to want toned calves just to look good in high heels. What’s more important is to want a healthy body and life.
While these 6 calf workout exercises may create more sculpted calves, they will significantly help you use your body more fully to its potential. We recommend you aim to complete these exercises three times per week.
It’s good to challenge yourself, and hey, if one of the effects of that challenge is feeling more comfortable in your skin, excellent.
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To your success,