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Health and Fitness News

Time to Calf Up

Hoping for strong, shapely calf muscles by next summer? Try these exercises.

Wouldn't it be nice to have legs to show off next summer? Maybe you're tired of dreading shorts and swimsuit season and are ready to take the steps necessary to improve the appearance of your legs. It's time to make your dream of tight, toned lower leg muscles a reality.

The calves are actually two muscles: the gastrocnemius is the larger, rounded muscle you can see and the soleus is the muscle hiding underneath. Variations of calf presses and calf raises are what you need to effectively work both of these muscles. Doing these exercises while standing targets the gastrocnemius and performing them while seated works the soleus. You can do these exercises at home or at the gym.

Spend between 5 and 10 minutes doing these calf exercises two to three days a week and expect results. Plan to do one to three sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise, but adjust the workout to your fitness level. If you've suffered a calf, foot, or ankle injury in the past, consult your doctor before attempting these exercises.

Standing Calf Raises

The go-to calf exercise is the calf raise. Use your own bodyweight for resistance or add intensity by holding free weights or a weighted barbell. Stand up straight with your feet placed hip-width apart, and then raise your body up by pressing into the balls of your feet. Slowly lower back to the ground and repeat. By keeping your abdominal muscles engaged you can avoid leaning backward or forward.

Besides adding weight, you can make calf raises more challenging by standing on the edge of a stair with your heels hanging off. Lower your heels toward the ground then raise your body up as high as you can. Lower and repeat. You can also increase intensity by doing single leg calf raises by standing on one foot. Hold onto a wall if you need help with balance.

Seated Calf Raises

A simple way to do seated calf raises is to sit on the edge of a chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Lean your upper body forward, place your hands on your knees, and push down. Now, slowly press down with the balls of your feet and raise your heels up as high as you're able. Lower and repeat. Add a level of intensity by resting a weighted barbell across your knees.

This exercise can also be done at the gym using the calf press machine. Sit on the seat and place the balls of your feet on the machine platform. Lower the weight by dropping your heels toward the floor. Then press to lift your heels up. Repeat.

Various Other Activities

You can get an effective calf workout by doing any number of activities that work your lower leg muscles. Jumping rope is a form of repetitive calf raises that'll burn calories and fatigue your calf muscles in no time. Find the kids' jump rope and start jumping.

Agility dots is a form of plyometrics and offers a challenging calf workout. Place two to four dots on the floor in a line or square shape or just imagine the dots in your mind. Then jump from one dot to the other on both feet or just one foot. The faster you jump, the greater the intensity.

If you don't have time to devote to calf exercises but want to strengthen and tone your calves, spend your workout doing exercises like swimming, tennis, step aerobics, walking, hiking, or running. Adding hills is a great way to work your calves.

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