There are many components to a good physique – you need those broad chiselled chests, flat-six-packed abs, ribbed lower backs, incredibly muscular legs, and to cap it off, you need some well-toned, strengthened, godlike calves.

Most people focus their exercise routines on building chest and abs while ignoring their lower body. But everyone knows that a job half done is not a job well-done. So, if you look at athletic GOATS like Tom Brady, Serena Williams or LBJ, admire their top to bottom physique and desire to be built that way, you better get down to working them calves. Here, we’ll show you why and show you how.

Calf Muscles Anatomy

The Calf and Calf Muscles Anatomy

The calf refers to the muscle that lies at the back of the leg. It extends from the back of the knee to the ankles. The calf muscles play an important role in leg movements, including walking, running, jumping, kicking, and even standing. The calf muscles also allow you to lock your knees in place or rotate your ankles.

The calves comprise three muscles, collectively known as the triceps surae, that work together to produce their movements – Two major muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus, that attach to the Achilles tendon; and a minor muscle, plantaris, that separates the gastrocnemius from the soleus.

The gastrocnemius is the outermost calf muscle ad forms the bulk of the calf. Because it sits just below the skin, its outline is visible when looking at the calf. The gastrocnemius begins at the foot of the femur, runs down the length of the hind leg and terminates at the Achilles tendon. Because it attaches to two joints, it receives the most strain.

The soleus is a broader muscle that lies deeper than the gastrocnemius. It starts below the knee and terminates at the Achilles tendon. The soleus attaches flatly to the tibia and fibula and receives less strain.

Fatty Calf

Fatty calf refers to excessive accumulation of fat in the calves. It is usually not a big deal medically; however, it does interfere considerably with appearance (especially in women) and performance.

Fatty calves may result from several factors, including genetics, diet and lifestyle. “Cackles” is a slang word used to describe a lack of clear separation between the calves and ankles and results from fatty calves. The calves and ankles, in this case, appear as one continuous fluid body.

The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are less developed and weaker with fat build-up in calves. This typically affects an individual’s ability to perform athletically and mundane activities like walking and standing.

Fatty calf is a problem suffered by many people. Even though they do not need calf strength, toned calf muscles add confidence to their physical appearance. Luckily, there are several exercises to help one lose calf fat.

calf muscle contraction

Benefits of Calf Workouts

Apart from the obvious physical appearance benefits, calf workouts also add the following benefits;

  • Protects against calf sprains; workouts add flexibility and strength to calf muscles, shielding against accidental tears and sprains.
  • Boosts blood flow: The calf muscles are important in pumping blood back to the heart against gravity and to the feet. Strengthened calves create the contraction needed for more efficient blood flow.
  • Improved athletic performance: The gastrocnemius is essential in providing power for various athletic movements, including running and jumping. Strengthened calves allow athletes to run faster, jump higher, kick harder etc.
  • Stability: Calf muscles provide a foundation upon which the entire body rests. They provide stability in standing, running, walking or dancing. Strengthened calves improve this stability.
weighted calf raises

Calf Strengthening Exercises

Calf strength is important for several reasons. Calf strengthening exercises help bulk up skinny calf muscles, tone down fatty calves, enhance calf muscles outline, and increase overall stability.

Calf strengthening exercises target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Although, the gastrocnemius muscles receive more impact. There are various types of calf strengthening exercises. While some use equipment, others do not.

Calf Workouts with weight

Calf workouts with weight use barbells, dumbbells or other heavy lifting equipment to enhance the calf. The added load makes a difference to the training routine regardless of the dumbbell’s weight.

Dumbbell Jump Squat

Jump squat routines target upper and lower leg muscles and are essential to full body workouts. The dumbbell jump squat utilizes dumbbells for added weight.

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight with feet apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and keep your arms straight down.
  3. Lower into a squat position until thighs are parallel to the floor and arms remain straight down.
  4. From the squat position, explode into a jump, pushing off with your legs.
  5. Land toes first, with knees slightly bent and gently lower back into the squat position right away.
  6. Do 3 sets of 15 reps, resting after each set. Ensure that the entire process is fluid.

Seated Dumbell Calf Raise

This workout forces the calves to work against the added weight of dumbbells.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on a bench with your heels extending over the floor and the balls of your feet resting on a block or step.
  2. Place dumbbells vertically on your knees for resistance
  3. You should have your knees bent 90 degrees and your toes pointing straight.
  4. Allow your heels to fall toward the floor until your calves are stretched.
  5. Drive the balls of your feet into the block and lift your heels as high as you can.
  6. Repeat for a total of 30–60 seconds, doing three sets
  7. Variations of the workout can have the toes pointing outwards or inwards.

Calf Workouts with Resistance Bands

As their name implies, resistance bands provide extra resistance for your calves to work against. Bands come in different elasticities, allowing variations in how you use them.

Banded March with Calf Raise

This workout targets both the calves and upper leg muscles. The calf has to march against resistance in this workout.

How to do it:

  1. Stand upright with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Loop a resistance band around the balls of your feet.
  3. Lift your right leg through the knees as high as possible while lifting onto the ball of your left foot.
  4. Lower your right leg and left foot, then repeat with the opposite leg.
  5. Complete 15 steps with each foot. Do 3 sets

Seated Band Push

This workout forces the calves to push against the resisting force of bands, making them stronger in the process.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with legs fully extended.
  2. Wrap one end of a resistance band around the ball of one foot and pull the other end of the band toward you until there’s tension.
  3. Flex your ankle and drive your foot forward, pointing your toe away from your torso while tightening the band around your ankle.
  4. Hold that position for a few seconds before relaxing your foot and allowing it to return to its natural position.
  5. Repeat for 30–60 seconds on each foot. Do 3 sets.
Body Resistance Calf Raises

No Tool Calf Workouts

These simple workouts require no tools and can be done anywhere. You will still build those attractive calves.

Single-Leg Calf Raise

A single calf works hard to bear the entire weight of your body against gravity. This builds the muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on a block or step with one leg, resting your entire weight on the ball of the standing feet. The heel should extend out, raised above the floor
  2. Wrap your free foot around the back of the working leg.
  3. Sink the standing heel toward the floor and stretch your calf.
  4. Hold for one second and then drive the ball of your foot into the surface as you raise your heel.
  5. Hold the top position for two seconds.
  6. Continue to 30 seconds on each foot. Do 3 sets

Reverse Calf Raises

A simple movement that places your entire weight on your calves.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on a block with only your heels while the ball of your foot extends out above the ground.
  2. Your knees should be slightly bent
  3. You could hold onto a pole for balance.
  4. With your heels on the block, lower your toes as low as you can till you feel tension in the front of your lower leg.
  5. Then lift your toes as high as you can.
  6. Slowly return your toes to the starting position.
  7. Repeat the movement for 30-60 secs. Do as many sets as you can

Calf Workouts for Women

These workouts help lose fat in the calves, giving women leaner, hotter calves.

Squat to Raised Heel

A great workout to put some tension on your calves

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keeping your back as straight as possible, bend knees to a 90-degree angle.
  3. Straighten legs to return to a standing position.
  4. When knees are no longer bent, continue by lifting onto the balls of your feet.
  5. Hold for a moment, then lower your heels to the floor.
  6. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
  7. You can use a dumbbell as you build endurance.

High Knees

High knees activate your calves and upper leg muscles, helping improve muscular endurance, balance, and coordination.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift right leg in front of you until knee is level with your belly button.
  3. Lower your right leg to the floor and quickly repeat with your left, slightly jumping between the switch.
  4. Continue alternating legs quickly for 30–60 seconds.
  5. Do 3 sets, resting after each.
  6. You may do this with a dumbbell as you build endurance.
calf muscle massage

Recovery and Nutrition

When doing calf workouts, you should start gently to avoid strains. No tool workouts may be better at the early stages. As you progress, building calf strength and endurance, you may throw in resistance bands and dumbbells.

Calf workouts should not cause disabling pain. However, Injuries like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and ankle strains are common when doing calf exercises. you may take the following approaches to aid calf recovery post-workout

  • Calf massages: they help to reduce soreness
  • Ice baths
  • Sauna
  • The Vive Calf Stretcher helps to reduce the pain from calf-related injuries.

Nutrition is an essential part of calf exercises. Without proper nutrition, you’ll lack the proteins needed to build muscle and the vitamins and minerals needed to keep you healthy and boost recovery.

Maintaining a proper diet may be difficult. However, there are several Protein and vitamin supplements that provide all the nutrients normally obtained from food. These Supplements aid faster muscle growth, rapid post-workout recovery, and enhanced exercise performance.

Take Away

The calf muscles are just as important as the quads, hamstrings or gluts when it comes to leg workouts. They contribute to the perfect look and do not deserve to be ignored.

Several calf workouts can help you build stronger, bulkier calves as a man or slimmer well-toned calves as a woman. These workouts may be done with or without equipment, giving great results regardless.

Always remember to start small, eat right, use the best protein or vitamin supplements and ensure that you get proper recovery to avoid pain after workouts. See you at the other side of a killer calf. 

References

The 18 Best Calf Exercises to Bulk Up Skinny Legs

5 Reasons Your Calves Are Insanely Bloated

Calf-Time Show: The 20 Best Calf Exercises to Add to Leg Day

Calf Muscle