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Understanding How to Exercise Your Calves
January 16, 2011

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The calf makes up the lower half of the leg below the knee and above the ankle. The calf is made up of two large muscles in the back of the leg called the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The front of the lower leg encompasses the tibialis anterior muscle. Without knowledge of the calf anatomy it can be difficult to exercise the lower leg and achieve your desired outcome. When the calf is weak it can cause difficulty with balancing which can lead to instability and increased risk of injury to the ankle. Additionally weakened calves lead to eventual immobility.

The calf is one of the most neglected muscle groups in the body. However, the calf is very important for balance and stability and is required for daily motions such as walking, running and jumping. The calf muscles are responsible for pointing the toes (plantar flexion) and standing on the toes. Therefore when exercising the calves it is necessary to push the calf muscles through their full range of motion. However, most people just don’t have enough variation of calf exercises, which limits the strength and flexibility that can be obtained.

            Calves should be worked hard and then given time to rest, recover, and grow especially since the calf is used any time the body is in motion. Excessive exercise such as overloading the muscle until exhaustion or working the calves multiple days in a row can lead to injury or inability to move around.  Calf exercises can be incorporated into a lower leg or body routine or can be done on their own. Calf exercises should be completed 2-3 times a week, with 10 repetitions per set and 3 sets.

            There are many machines at the gym that can be used for calf exercises. These machines allow you to build up your calf muscles by increasing weight each session. Additionally, machines allow people who have problems standing or back pain to work their calves in a seat position. However, if you don’t go to a gym or have a gym membership there are plenty of calf exercises that can be down without machines or equipment. A variety of calf exercises should be included in any exercise routine to ensure your calf muscles develop the firmness and look you want. Additional calf exercises include running, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, running up hill and sports such as tennis, cycling, track and field and soccer.