Source: Tips provided by Life Fitness
When people talk about toning their legs, most focus on the thighs, an area that is often voted the most troublesome. But to get shapely, sexy legs, you have to work the entire leg, including the most important muscle’the calf. Not only are the calves the most exposed part of your legs, peeking out under shorts and cropped pants, they are also a muscle that contributes to your body’s overall balance and circulation. So start now in order to get them in shape for the summer season.
The best way to tone your calves is to use them. Your calf muscles are put to good use when you perform the most basic functions of supporting your body weight through movement. However, if you are already active, you may have to challenge them beyond your usual routine of walking, running or riding a bike. Try some of these calf-boosting tips from the experts at Life Fitness.
- Three simple steps to get your calves looking shapely in heels
- Anatomy of the calf
- Standing calf raise
- Calf raises on a step
- Seated calf raises
- Bonus calf-toning tips
- More ways to get toned legs:
- Get Stronger Calves with These 5 Exercises
- Band-resisted Calf Flexion
- Single-leg Standing Heel Raise
- Seated Heel Raise
- Plié Squat with Heel Raise
- Double-leg Standing Heel Raise
- These easy, realistic exercises can tone your calf muscles!
- Killer Calves – Simple Exercises to Tone and Sculpt Your Calf Muscles
- Double-Leg Calf Raises
- Single-Leg Calf Raises
- Seated Calf Raises
- Stair Steps
- Jump Squats
- The High Price of High Heels: My Day in Heels
Do calf raises
This is the go-to exercise for shaping and strengthening your calves. Start by standing with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step, your heels hanging off unsupported. Slowly contract your calf muscles and rise up onto your toes. Then, slowly lower your heels to below the level of the step until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your calves. Repeat three sets, 15 times each and gradually increase the repetitions. A variation or progression would be performing this exercise on a single leg at a time. If these calf raises are easy for you, try using a seated calf raise machine for an extra challenge.
When you jump, you naturally raise onto your toes and in turn work your calve muscles. Grab a jump rope and start with five minutes of jumping. Try a few sets of jump squats. Not only will your calves feel it, but your heart will be better off for it, too!
Ballerinas and dancers tend to have shapely, strong calves. Barre classes and other dance classes which are done in bare feet are all the rage these days and shouldn’t be hard to find in your community. If you cannot find an organized class in your neighborhood, try a DVD.
Don’t forget to stretch your calves after strength training. Bend over and touch your toes or hold a traditional yoga downward dog pose, pressing your heels towards the ground.
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Three simple steps to get your calves looking shapely in heels
Answer: Just like any part of the body, you need to ensure you have a balanced and full body exercise routine. Ideally your routine should consist of cardiovascular work, resistance work and stretching work, too. These three components are the foundations of any exercise routine and will give you the best body possible.
In terms of the calves, one of the benefits for women for having shapely calves is that they can visually make your legs look longer. By having slender calves that narrow as the leg goes towards the ankle and developing the muscles of the calves gives you that vertical line at the side of the calf that looks so good in high heels.
So they are the reasons for having some calf exercises in your routine. But what should they be? Here are my favourite three:
Regular calf raises: Stand on a block, with the balls of your feet on the block and your heels over the edge. Keeping your core engaged and your back straight, simply go up onto your tippy toes and then bring your heels towards the floor. Repeat for 20 reps; 3 sets.
V calf raises: Now bring your heels together, and your feet into a v-shape between your toes. It’s the very same range of motion as the first exercise but the change in your feet works a different part of the calves. Do 20 reps and 3 sets.
A calf raises: Now bring your toes together and keep your heels away from each other until you have an A shape. Again, the change in foot position works different muscle groups. Do 20 reps and 3 sets. Simply add these into your current training routine and you will see your calves shape up super-fast.
Health & Living
3. Seated Calf Raise. You can do this exercise at home or at the gym on a calf exercise machine. The exercise works both the gastrocnemius and soleus.
Starting position: Sit on a firm, sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your knees aligned directly over your feet. Don’t let your knees turn in or out. Lean forward placing hands on thighs near knees pushing down to add resistance.
Action: Press slowly down into the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as you can. Next, slowly lower your heels. Repeat.
At the gym.
Starting position: Set yourself up in the calf press machine with the balls of your feet on the platform. This will let you lower your heels toward the floor. Undo the machine’s safety latch and release the weight onto your calves.
Action: Drop your heels as far as you can toward the floor to lower the weight, and then press into the balls of your feet to raise your heels as high as you can.
4. Calf-Building Sports: Taking part in the following sports will help you both strengthen and tone your calves.
Running, walking, and hiking are excellent calf-strengthening exercises, especially when you go uphill. The steeper the climb, the more your calves have to work.
Running sports such as soccer, basketball, and tennis demand that you run, jump, and push off your calf muscles to accelerate or change direction quickly. So they’re great for toning calves.
Step class and other kinds of dance will work your calves every time you step up and down or bend your knees and push off going from high to low positions.
Swimming works the calves along with the rest of the legs muscles. It also avoids the impact of running or jumping. Because it’s low-impact, it’s also a safe way to strengthen calves if you’re recovering from an injury.
If you’re overweight and want the look of toned calves, you may want to add a safe weight loss program that includes diet and exercise. You can’t spot-reduce any part of your body.
Toned, shapely calf muscles look great whether you’re wearing shorts, a skirt or capris. These all-important muscles often take a back seat to glutes and legs in workout routines, yet you probably use them more than you think. Walking, jumping, pedaling a bicycle and even pressing the accelerator of your car all require calf action. Toning your calves, however, requires resistance beyond these normal daily activities if you want to see results. In other words, you need to feel the burn to see changes — and it’s worth it. Here are the best calf exercises for toned lower legs.
Anatomy of the calf
First, a quick anatomy lesson: Two muscles make up your calves, the gastrocnemius (the meaty upper portion of your calf) and soleus (a deeper, smaller muscle). To get the most shape and tone for your buck, use a combination of lower leg exercises. Hitting the muscles from different angles works a variety of muscle fibers and gives you a complete approach.
Try the follow calf-shaping moves two to three times a week for firmer calves in approximately four weeks.
Standing calf raise
Primarily works the gastrocnemius
Start position: Stand facing a wall and step approximately two feet away. Place your hands against the wall in a push-up position, leaning your body in toward the wall in a straight line and keeping heels on the ground (barefoot or wearing sneakers). You should feel a stretch throughout your calves.
Movement: Raise up onto the balls of your feet; remain leaning toward the wall. Pause and slowly lower back down.
Repeat 15 times.
Calf raises on a step
Primarily works the gastrocnemius
Start position: Stand on the balls of your feet on the bottom step of a staircase, holding onto a wall or railing for balance.
Movement: Slowly lower your heels toward the floor, feeling the muscles stretch, and then slowly raise up onto the balls of your feet. Pause and lower back down.
Repeat 15 times.
For a greater challenge, bring one foot behind the opposite ankle and use the same form for one-legged calf raises.
Seated calf raises
Primarily works the soleus
Start position: Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on the floor. Place a dumbbell in each hand (10 pounds or heavier; remember, your calves are strong enough to move your entire body’s weight around all day) and hold one on top of each knee.
Movement: Slowly squeeze your calf muscles as you raise up onto the balls of your feet (avoid bouncing up and down). Pause and slowly lower back down, without resting.
Repeat 15 or more times.
Bonus calf-toning tips
Jump rope: Jumping rope requires standing on your toes, giving calf muscles a good workout. Plus, jumping for 30 minutes burns approximately 350 calories.
Walk up stairs: To emphasize calf muscles, focus on squeezing them as you walk up every stair. Carry a dumbbell to increase the resistance.
More ways to get toned legs:
- 5 Exercises for fabulous legs!
- Top 10 functional exercises for full-body fitness
- Step up your workout with fitness-focused footwear
Get Stronger Calves with These 5 Exercises
The calves make up the entire space of the posterior lower leg and are used for important everyday activities like walking, running and jumping. Effectively working the calves involves raising the heels against resistance, whether that’s your own body weight or an added load, such as dumbbells or elastic resistance. Also, allowing your ankle increased range of motion by lowering and raising the heels off the edge of a step is an effective way to challenge the calves beyond what they are used to during your everyday activities. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of the following exercises to challenge the calves. If you’re not used to working these muscles, start with only one set and perform fewer repetitions, as the eccentric nature of these movements may cause some soreness.
Band-resisted Calf Flexion
Sit on a mat with your legs extended out in front of you. If, in this position, it’s difficult for you to keep your back straight, elevate your hips by sitting on bench or yoga block. Place an elastic resistance band around the balls of both feet. Keeping the knees straight, point and flex the foot forward and upward, maintaining tautness in the band throughout the movement.
Single-leg Standing Heel Raise
Stand on a step with one foot, with the heel hanging off the edge. Make sure the ball of the foot is securely on top of the step. Slowly lower the heel of the standing leg below the edge of the step and then raise the heel as high as possible while keeping the knee straight. Complete all repetitions on one leg before moving on to the opposite side.
Seated Heel Raise
Sit on a chair or weight bench with both feet on a step and the heels hanging off of the edge. Place a dumbbell or plate weight across the tops of the thighs. Make sure the balls of the feet are securely on top of the step. Slowly lower the heels below the edge of the step and then raise them as high as possible.
Plié Squat with Heel Raise
Adopt a wide stance while holding a dumbbell in each hand in the front rack position. The feet should be turned out, but only to the point at which the knees can track in alignment with the toes. Do not allow the knees to cave inward during this movement. Lift the right heel off the floor, but keep the left foot flat. Perform squats with the left foot flat and the right foot balanced on the ball of the foot. Complete all repetitions on one leg before changing the foot position to the opposite side.
Double-leg Standing Heel Raise
Stand on a step with both heels hanging off the edge. Make sure the balls of the feet are securely on top of the step. Slowly lower the heels below the edge of the step and then raise them as high as possible while keeping the knees straight.
These easy, realistic exercises can tone your calf muscles!
Imagine yourself looking into a full-length mirror wearing a crop-top paired with a pencil skirt and then throw in a pair of sexy six-inch-heels. Now, turn around in a profile pose and flex your calves. There, what did you see? May be not a nightmare but those pins are so not toned! Such a bummer if you have long legs, isn’t it?
Also read: Jacqueline Fernandez is on a fitness spree and our eyes are glued to her
While working on the lower body, people often tend to ignore the calf muscles, which like other parts of the body require equal attention. There are plenty of exercises that can be done from the comfort of your home, or even the backyard. Having access to free-weights and machines can help here.
Also read: My butt is hot, says fitness freak Nargis Fakhri
Jogging, walking, climbing stairs, and cycling–all are good for building up the calf muscles. Machine or weight training is also great for calves because it allows you to train the muscles as hard and heavy as you want them to look.
After some research, we’ve put together a short list of the top 5 exercises you can do to sculpt your calf muscles to a whole new level.
Also read: Sticking to your fitness goal seems like a hassle, no? Try this!
Whether your goal is to run faster or get better at your favourite sport, strong legs with an even stronger pair of calf may just be the ticket.
- Jumping ropes: Probably the easiest and the most fun way to sculpt your calves. Jump ropes daily, twice a day for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Hiking: If you are more of an adventurous person, who loves outdoors and tries out different adventure sports, then hiking could be your pick. If not, then try finding a steep road or hill for yourself and climb it. Climbing will give your calves a serious workout, along with some cardio burning some extra calories.
- Cycling: May sound easy but give it an hour or so and you’ll be feeling it, like seriously. Cycling, either indoors or outdoors, it is the best way to beat cellulite around your legs.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana/ Downward-facing dog pose: No fitness story can go without mentioning a yoga pose or two. Well this one is for all the yoga lovers, all you need to do is try it for a few days and your calves will be the point of discussion for many around you.
- Squats: Squats are excellent, and we know that. This exercise for training the lower body and core muscles, if done regularly can help you define the calf muscles. Squats are done using your own body weight and work in the best way possible. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart, lower your back as far as you can and start pushing your hips by bending your knees and pushing your body weight into your heels. All you need to make sure is that the your knees should not go over your toes, ever.
Now put on the pencil skirt and your six-inch-heels, turn around and check the baby muscles you got down there.
Killer Calves – Simple Exercises to Tone and Sculpt Your Calf Muscles
Posted by cms-support
July 26, 2013 • 6 min read
Whether you’re wearing shorts or a swimsuit, your calves get seen more than any other part of your leg. If you’re not happy with the curve and tone of your calves, it’s time to start adding a few simple exercises to your workout routine. Seeing a difference in your calves will take consistency and commitment, but in time you’ll see results.
First off, if your muscles are hiding under a layer of fat, you’ve got to lose weight before toned calves will peek out. For this, you’ll want plenty of cardio exercise and a healthy diet.
By strength training using your body, weight machines, or free weights, your muscles adapt to bearing more weight and will gain mass and strength. Here are six simple exercises that the boot camp in Billings recommends you preform two to three days a week to sculpt some killer calves.
Double-Leg Calf Raises
One of the best exercises to work your calf muscles is the calf raise. This exercise uses your own body weight or additional free weights for resistance. It has many variations and can be done at home, at the gym, or even sitting at work.
To do the double-leg calf raise, stand up straight with your feet slightly apart. Hold onto a wall, chair, or bar for balance. Press down onto the balls of your feet and raise your body straight up, not leaning forward or backward. Then lower your heels back toward the floor. Repeat.
To add intensity, stand on the edge of a large book, wood block, or barbell weight so that the balls of your feet are on the object and your heels hang off the back. Lower your heels down toward the floor for a few seconds, and then raise them up as high as possible. Repeat. Only lower your heels until you feel a stretch and burn in your calves. You shouldn’t feel any pain.
To work different muscles in your calf, try inverted calf raises (point your toes inward toward each other) and everted calf raises (place your heels together and point your toes outward).
Single-Leg Calf Raises
For additional intensity, try single-leg calf raises. Place one foot on the floor or elevated object and bend the opposite leg at the knee, so your foot is off the ground and behind you. Do 12–15 repetitions on your right leg and then the same number of reps on your left leg. Have good balance and want an extra challenge? Do these with a dumbbell in each hand.
Seated Calf Raises
An exercise you can do while sitting at home or at the office is the seated calf raise. Sit up straight with your feet on the floor and your knees directly above your feet. Place some sort of weight on your upper legs then press down onto the balls of your feet and raise your heels up. Lower and repeat.
Seated calf raises can also be performed on the calf exercise machine at your gym.
Walking up and down stairs is an exceptionally simple and effective calf workout. This can be done on stairs in your home, at work, at the stadium, or on the stair-stepper machine at the gym. Just walk up and down the steps for a few minutes and you’ll feel a burn.
Jump squats are an intense calf exercise that the Billings boot camp wants you to try because it also incorporates your thigh and buttocks muscles. Similar to the basic squat but a little more challenging, the jump squat requires you to start in the squat position with your legs bent, knees over your feet, and your bottom pushed back as if to sit down. From this position, push up with your calves and jump up off the ground. Gently land back in squat position.
You may admire your calf muscles as individual entities, but calves actually consist of two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. So when you work your two calf muscles, you’re actually working four muscles!
The High Price of High Heels: My Day in Heels
Almost three-quarters of women wear high heel shoes at some time. And many wear them for hours at work. Yet the question remains: Are high heels bad for you?
To help me find out, I decided to see my patients an entire day while wearing high heels. I share my experiences below.
How High Heels Affect Your Body
The general consensus among doctors is that wearing heels comes with a high price. Heels not only mal-align your feet, but also your knees, hips, back, and neck. This secondarily leads to:
- Blood restriction to your lower limbs (which can cause spider veins)
- Shortened calf muscles
- Stiffened Achilles tendon
- Pain and muscle spasms
- Knee pain
- Back pain
Although blisters, calluses, and swelling in the feet sound like a real pain, back pain takes the cake! So why do heels cause your back to ache? Here’s why:
1. Heels cause changes in your posture. The S-curve of your spine is made up of cushion-like discs between the vertebrae that absorb shock waves from stress (caused by movements like bending or jumping). Wearing heels causes your lower back to arch more than normal because your body weight is being pushed forward. Your hips shift forward. To compensate, your upper body has to lean backwards to maintain balance and proper posture. This puts extra stress on your discs. Spending hours in heels can lead to muscle spasms and back pain.
2. Heels cause changes to your body’s anatomy. Wearing heels on a regular basis can have a major impact on your body’s anatomy. Heels can shorten your calf muscles and tighten and thicken your tendons. Heels put extra strain on your back and knees causing these changes. Tightened calf muscles then alter how the rest of your body moves.
3. Heels increase the instability of your ankles and knees. Over time, this leads to arthritis and degenerative changes of your joints. Women have four times the amount of foot problems compared to males. The higher the heel, the more pressure you put on your forefoot. Here is how the height increases the pressure:
- 1-inch heels: 22 percent pressure
- 2-inch heels 57 percent pressure
- 3-inch heels 76 percent pressure
4. Heels can lead to other spine injuries. Back pain from wearing heels can get even uglier if you have one of these spine injuries:
- Spondylolisthesis: a common injury that affects your lower back from arching your back too much (hyperextension). It occurs when one of your vertebra slips forward over another.
- Foraminal stenosis: a spine and nervous system issue that occurs when anatomical abnormalities reduce the spaces the nerves travel through as they exit the spine. These space pockets are called foramina and when they are blocked, they squeeze your nerves. The pain can radiate down your buttocks and legs. Symptoms include shooting pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, spasms and cramping.
- Sciatica: Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from the bottom of your spine to your legs. When your sciatic nerve is compressed, it causes radiating pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness down your legs, which can travel to the bottom of your feet.
Kick Off the Heels!
If you are experiencing back pain from regularly wearing high heels, it is time to retire your favorite pumps. Flat shoes can be very chic. Have you checked Pinterest lately? Wearing shoes that are designed for comfort can help alleviate your pain and help you live a more pain-free life.
High Heels a Must? Here Are Some Tips to Alleviate and Prevent Potential Back Pain
Even after reading the negative effects heels can cause, you may not be willing to give them up just yet. Here are some tips to help alleviate your back pain.
- Wear heels for as little time as possible. Take comfortable shoes with you to the office in case you have to walk long distances.
- Opt for heels around 2 inches high or lower. The higher the heel, the more pressure you are putting on your forefoot.
- Steer clear of pointy-toed shoes. Pointy-toed shoes can cause more discomfort than other types of heels.
- Buy shoes with leather insoles. Leather insoles help keep your feet in place inside of your shoe and reduce sliding.
- Buy arch inserts. Arch support is key to a healthy back. Having a shoe with no arch support can cause major back pain. If you can’t find shoes with built-in arch support, buy some to insert in your favorite pair of heels.
- Vary your shoe choices. Switch up your wardrobe – including your shoes. Switch between flats and heels so you give your back a break.
- Style is everything. Instead of wearing stilettos, opt for a pair of platforms or wedges. Gradual or lower slopes are better for your back.
- Thicker is better. Thicker heels provide more support than stilettos or spiky heels. Choose a chunky heel to complete your look.
- Stretch! After a long day in heels, it is important to stretch and strengthen your sore muscles.
- Stretch your leg and hip muscles. Find a stretching routine that works for you. Be sure to work your thigh and calf muscles before and after wearing heels.
- Massage and stretch your feet muscles. Roll your feet on a golf ball or treat yourself to a foot massage. Your feet will thank you for it!
- Improve motion in your ankles. Roll your ankles while sitting at your desk. This will help alleviate some of the stiffness and tightening that comes with wearing heels.
My Day in Heels
I was only in the heels for a short period of time. This was not enough time to develop musculoskeletal adaptations from wearing the heels. However, I did notice that I needed to increase the arch of my back to stand up correctly. By being on your toes, this moves your body of mass forward. Therefore, I have to increase the arch in my back to maintain an upright posture. Over time, this would become second nature and I would not even know that I am modifying my posture. Eventually, this would lead to chronic back pain or place me at a risk for an acute back injury.
Suffering from Back Pain?
The National Institutes of Health reports that back pain – either acute or chronic – affects eight out of 10 people. If you’re suffering, you can count on UPMC Pinnacle to understand your needs and work with you toward the best treatment option.
After an initial assessment of your condition is complete, your information will be reviewed by a medical professional and an appointment will be scheduled with the appropriate provider. Visit us online for more information.