Blog Fitness Workouts 6 Calf Strengthening Exercises And Their Benefits

6 Calf Strengthening Exercises And Their Benefits

The calf is a group of muscles located at the back of the lower leg. These muscles are responsible for plantarflexing the foot (pointing the toes away from the body) and stabilizing the ankle. Strong calf muscles are important for activities such as walking, running, and jumping. Not to mention, having strong, defined calf muscles can greatly improve the appearance of your legs. Unfortunately, the calf muscles are often neglected in favor of other muscle groups like the quads and hamstrings. This can lead to imbalances and injuries down the road.  That’s why it’s important to include calf-strengthening exercises in your workout routine.

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Here are six calf-strengthening exercises that you can do to build strength and improve the appearance of your lower legs.

1. Double-Leg Calf Raise

This is a basic but effective exercise for strengthening the calves. It activates both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. 

To do a double-leg calf raise:

  1. Stand near a wall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees in alignment with your ankles.
  2. Press down into the balls of both feet to raise your body upward. Engage your core to maintain a straight posture as you raise yourself.
  3. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your heels back down below the level of your toes.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

To make this exercise more challenging, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand or balance the balls of your feet on an elevated surface like a step or weight plate.

2. Standing Single-Leg Calf Raise

This exercise targets the calves while also engaging the stabilizing muscles of the ankle and foot. As a result, it’s a great way to build strength and improve balance.

To do a standing single-leg calf raise:

  1. Stand near a wall or other sturdy object for support. Lift one leg off the ground and flex your foot so that your toes are pointing upward.
  2. Slowly raise your body upward on your standing leg, using your calf muscles to press into the ball of your foot.  Keep your leg straight as you raise yourself upward.
  3. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then lower your body back down to the starting position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions on each leg.
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To make this exercise more challenging, you can hold dumbbells in each hand or place the ball of your raised foot on an elevated surface.

Read More: Row Variations: 12 Exercises To Build Strong Back Muscles

calf strengthening exercises

3. Seated Calf Raise

This exercise targets the soleus muscle, which is located lower on the leg than the gastrocnemius. The soleus is important for plantarflexion and stabilizing the ankle during activities such as walking and running.

It also works to prevent overpronation of the foot. To some extent the seated calf raise also targets the gastrocnemius, but not to the same degree as the previous two exercises. To do a seated calf raise:

To do a seated calf raise:

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent to 90 degrees.  You can place your hands on top of your thighs for support.
  2. Lean forward, pushing your hips and butt backward while keeping your back straight. This will cause your shins to move forward slightly.
  3. Now press down into the balls of both feet, using your calf muscles to raise your heels off the ground.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then lower your heels back down to the starting position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
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To make this exercise more challenging, you can place a weighted plate on your thighs.

4. Jump Rope

Jumping rope is a great way to build calf strength and improve coordination and balance. It’s also a cardiovascular exercise that can help you burn calories and improve your endurance.

To do a jump rope:

  1. Choose a rope that is the appropriate length for your height.  To find the right length, hold the rope in the middle and stand on the center of the rope. The handles should extend to your armpits.
  2. Stand with your feet together and the rope behind you.  Swing the rope over your head and under your feet to get it moving.
  3. Jump lightly off the ground, using your toes to spring upward as the rope passes under your feet.
  4. Land on the balls of your feet with your knees slightly bent.  As you land, immediately prepare to jump again.
  5. Continue jumping for 30-60 seconds.  As you become more proficient, you can increase the duration of your jump rope sessions.
  6. Do 3 sets of 30-60 seconds.

5. Farmer’s Walk On Toes

The farmer’s walk is an exercise that targets the muscles of the forearm, hand, and upper arm, as well as the shoulders, back, and legs. It’s a great overall exercise for strength and conditioning.

To do a farmer’s walk on toes:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length by your sides.
  2. Keeping your shoulders down and your core engaged, lift your heels so you’re standing on your toes.
  3. Walk forward, taking small steps.  As you walk, keep your arms straight and allow the dumbbells to hang naturally at your sides.
  4. Continue walking for 30-60 seconds.  As you become more proficient, you can increase the duration of your walk.
  5. Do 3 sets of 30-60 seconds.
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calf strengthening exercises

6. Stair Climber

The stair climber is a great exercise for strengthening the calf muscles and improving cardiovascular fitness. It’s also a low-impact exercise, which makes it ideal for people with joint problems. 

To do a stair climber:

  1. Stand with your feet on a step or platform. The balls of your feet should be resting on the edge of the step and your heels should be hanging off.
  2.  Keeping your core engaged, raise your heels so you’re standing on your toes.
  3. Now press down into the balls of both feet, using your calf muscles to raise your body up onto your toes.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then lower your heels back down to the starting position.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

To make this exercise more challenging, you can carry a dumbbell in each hand.

Benefits Of Calf Muscle Strengthening Exercises

There are many benefits to be gained from strengthening the calf muscles. These benefits include:

1. Improved Balance And Coordination

When you take a step, it’s your calf muscles that push off from the ground and propel you forward. They also help you maintain your balance. Strengthening your calf muscles can therefore help you improve your balance and coordination (3).

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2. Increased Joint Stability

The calf muscles support the ankle joint and help to stabilize it. Strong calf muscles can therefore help to prevent ankle injuries (3).

3. Improved Posture

Strong calf muscles help to keep the feet and lower legs in alignment, which can help to improve your posture (2).

4. Reduced Risk Of Falls And Injuries

As we age, our calf muscles tend to weaken. This can lead to a loss of balance and an increased risk of falls. Strengthening the calf muscles can help to reduce the risk of falls, particularly in older adults.

Strong calf muscles can help to prevent injuries to the lower leg, such as Achilles tendonitis and shin splints. 

If you already have a lower leg injury, strengthening the calf muscles can help to support the injured area and speed up the healing process.

For example, Achilles tendonitis is a common condition that causes pain in the Achilles tendon, which runs from the calf muscle to the heel bone. The condition is often caused by overuse and repetitive stress on the Achilles tendon (1).

Strengthening the calf muscles can help to take some of the strain off the Achilles tendon and provide relief from Achilles tendonitis.

Read More: Bodyweight Bicep Exercise: Get Bigger Biceps At Home Without Lifting Any Weights

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5. Increased Power And Explosiveness

The calf muscles are used in activities that require sudden bursts of power, such as sprinting, jumping, and climbing. Strengthening the calf muscles can therefore help to increase your power and explosiveness.

6. Enhanced Athletic Performance

Strong calf muscles can improve your athletic performance, whether you’re a runner, basketball player, or tennis player.

Keeping a steady pace during endurance activities, such as long-distance running, hiking, and cycling, relies heavily on the calf muscles. Strengthening the calf muscles can help to improve your endurance (3).

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7. Better Body Composition

While they may not be the largest muscles in the body, the calf muscles are part of the overall muscle mass of the body. As such, they contribute to your overall body composition.

Building bigger and stronger calf muscles can help to improve your body composition and make you look more muscular. Furthermore, because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, strong calf muscles can help you lose weight and body fat.

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calf strengthening exercises

8. Improved Circulation

The calves are responsible for pumping blood back up to the heart. This action is known as venous return (4). Strengthening the calf muscles can help to improve venous return and circulation.

10. Increased Mobility

Strong calf muscles can help you move more easily and with greater range of motion. This is particularly important as we age, when the calf muscles tend to weaken.

The Bottom Line

The calf muscles are important for many everyday activities, such as walking and climbing stairs. They also play a role in balance, stability, and posture. Furthermore, the calf muscles contribute to overall body composition and can help you lose weight and body fat.

There are many benefits to be gained from strengthening the calf muscles. Include the exercises described above in your workout routine to improve the health and function of your calf muscles.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1.  Achilles Tendonitis (2022, nih.gov)
  2. Effect of Calf Muscle Fatigue on Postural Sway According to Foot Posture (2019, koreascience.kr)
  3. The Importance of Calf Strength and the BEST Calf Strength Exercises (n.d., sportsandspinalphysio.com.au)
  4. Understanding venous return (2014, nih.gov)
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