In our obsession about curves—where we have them and where we don’t, where we want them and where we don’t—it’s easy to forget all about the calves.
They’re shaped mainly by muscle, so unlike curves formed mainly from fat, you can actually do something about them without surgery or overall changes in weight. Two muscles create the bulk of your calves: the soleus and the gastrocnemius. The gastrocnemius is higher up on the calf and closer to the surface, while the soleus is deeper within the calf and runs lower.
If you like the shape and size of your calves, be grateful and stop reading. But if you who would like more shape and curve to your calves, you have to overload them so that the muscle fibers will enlarge.
Overloading your calves requires more than simply walking. And it often takes more than doing calf exercises using only your own body weight. Try these two exercises to sculpt your calves:
Standing Heel Raises
These are often called calf raises. Stand on one leg holding a weight in one hand or wearing a weighted vest. Take one to two seconds to lift your heel off the floor as high as possible. Lower the heel back down to the floor more slowly, taking four to six seconds. Repeat until your calf is completely fatigued, and you can no longer complete the full range of movement.
This move emphasizes the eccentric or lengthening (lowering) phase of this exercise to induce more muscle growth. Perform this exercise two to three times a week, never on consecutive days. If you still feel fatigue in the calf from a previous workout, wait until you feel the calf is fully recovered before another session. If you have never done heel raises before, start with a two-leg heel raise for several sessions, progress to a single-leg raise and then finally add the extra weight.
Think ballet here. You can do plié jumps with your feet together or apart, your toes turned out or straight ahead. Just keep your knees pointed in the same direction as your toes when you land and push off. Plié jumps do not require a deep knee bend. They are quick jumps, with a relatively shallow bend at the knee. The focus is on rolling through the foot on both take off and landing.
Take off proceeds with the release of the heel, followed by the ball of the foot, and concluding with a final push of the toes off the floor. Landing is just the reverse: toe, ball, heel. If you are doing it properly, you will barely hear yourself land. Once again, do these until you are fatigued. From workout to workout, alter the degree of toe turnout and the width between your feet.
These two exercises focus on training the calves’ muscle fibers in different ways. The heel raises tax the fibers from the resistance angle, while the jumps train from the speed angle. If you do them regularly, you should obtain the shapely, sexy calves you want.
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