In this post I want to focus on a body part which is often neglected, the calves. While the abs, thighs, and buttocks get a lot of attention, the calf muscles are often left out. Too bad. Having toned calves can make you look so much better. This is why I want to dedicate this post to calf exercises which men and women both can do at home.
All you need to do these calf exercises is yourself. You don’t need any fitness equipment. A pair of dumbbells is recommended as it will make the exercises more effective, but they’re not a must. Other than that, all you should have is a chair (more on that below).
Before we get to the exercises, just one thing you should know: calf exercises are NOT the solution to fat calves. They can help you tone and strengthen the calf muscles but, as I explained in my post on the spot fat reduction myth, to burn fat you need a total body workout fat burning routine, and not targeted exercises.
Be that as it may, if you’re looking to get tight, toned calves, these exercises are highly recommended.
Standing Calf Raises
This is the classic calf exercise, the standing calf raise. You can see in the picture above the starting position on the left and the end position on the right. This exercise can be done on the floor but it is better done on an aerobic step or a stair.
The way you do the standing calf raise is simple. You begin by standing on the floor with your feet slightly apart (I’ll get to the stair variation in a moment). While keeping your knees extended, you raise yourself up on tiptoes. Hold this position and feel the strain in your calves. Lower yourself back slowly to the floor.
As you can see in the picture, I chose to increase the resistance by holding a dumbbell in each hand next to my thighs.
If you have an aerobic step or a staircase at home, you can do a harder variation of this exercise. You can stand with both feet on the stair with your heels over the edge. Lower your heels downward so your calf muscles are extended and raise yourself up on you tip toes. The stair helps you get a bigger range of motion. However, you may find it harder to keep your balance and may need to hold onto something.
Single Legged Calf Raise
A harder variation of the calf raises exercise is the single legged one. You can see in the picture above the start and end positions of this exercise. As the picture shows, I rest the top of the elevated foot on the back of the lower one. This is done to keep my balance. You can still hold a dumbbell in both hands as you do this exercise although it will be harder to maintain your balance throughout the set.
If you choose to do this exercise while on a stair, you can hold a dumbbell in one hand while holding onto the handrail with the other. Don’t forget to switch legs and to work both legs in the same manner to preserve symmetry.
Seated Calf Raises
The seated calf raise is a favorite of mine as you can really feel the effort in your calves when you’re doing it. You probably know the machine with which you do this exercise at the gym but you can also do it at home with a pair of dumbbells.
What you do is sit on a chair with both feet on the floor. Your legs should be at a 90 degree angle. Place a dumbell on each thigh close to your knee and hold them with your hands so they don’t fall off. Don’t grab them, just press them into your thighs.
Raise both heels off the floor until you’re on tip toes (as you can see in the picture above). Hold that position for a few seconds and lower your heels to the floor.
Angled Calf Raise
The angled calf raise is another exercise that you can do at home. This calf exercise targets the calf muscles a bit differently than the regular raise.
To do so, you need to lean against something sturdy, such as two door posts or a table, and walk backward until your body is at a straight line and your heels are slightly off the floor.
Once you’re at the starting position (as you can see in the left side of the picture above), you just raise them further until you feel the tension in your calves. Lower your heels toward the floor and repeat.
More Ways To Strengthen and Tone Your Calves
While the 4 calf exercises I outlined above are great to target the calf muscles, you should know that leg exercises such as squats and lunges also work the calves. They just don’t isolate the muscle.
Cardio workouts such as walking and running also work the calves but cycling is particularly effective. Rock climbing and stair climbing (especially when done on the balls of your feet) are also powerful calves builders.
If you want a complete program to help you work the lower muscles visit Lower Body Makeover.
A note on stretching: the calf muscles are prone to cramps so you should include stretching in your routine. Check out these calf stretches to help you increase flexibility and prevent cramps