Everybody wants to have ripped abs and bigger arms, but there are hardly a few people who concentrate on building every muscle of their body. Don’t be surprised if your legs have never been complimented, it’s probably because you’re not giving your calf muscles any attention yourself. Many of the lower-body workouts don’t necessarily concentrate on building calf muscles, as they are designed to work mainly on the glutes and quads. Calf muscles are one of the most stubborn muscles in our bodies and you will need to train them frequently if you want see any visible results. Don’t fret we’ve got you covered! Here’s a low-down on the calf muscles and how you should be working on them:
- The Gastrocnemius:
The first section of the calf muscles comprises of the medial head and the lateral head, and together they are called the gastrocnemius or commonly referred to as the “calves”. These are the most prominent muscles and can be seen when standing up and raising your toes off the ground. The muscles that you see contracting are the gastrocnemius.
- The Soleus:
The soleus muscles are responsible for helping your body to stand up from a seated position. When seated the soleus bears the entire load, while the gastrocnemius remain inactive.
- The Tibialis Anterior:
The third and final section of the calves is the tibialis anterior, which is also the most neglected of the leg muscles.The tibialis anterior is used for walking up slopes and other activities that put the toes higher than the heel. A well developed tibialis anterior will make the lower legs appear larger and less bony.
Calves, like any other muscle in your body should not be trained for more than 15 minutes for three to five days a week. Half reps when it comes to working your calves are useless, so make sure you feel a stretch at the bottom of each rep. Unlike chest, legs, and triceps there is only one way to work each muscle of the calf. Standing motions that raise your body and toes up will work the gastrocnemius, seated calf raises will work your soleus, reverse calf raises will work your tibialis anterior.
Since each calf muscle needs to be worked on separately, the following three exercises are specifically designed to work on each one of them:
Barbell Seated Calf Raise for The Soleus
Place a block or weight about 12 inches in front of your bench. Sit on the bench and place the balls of your feet on the elevated surface. Ask a friend or your trainer to place a barbell over your upper thighs and hold it there. This will be your starting position. Now raise your toes as high as possible as you squeeze the calves. Breathe out when you are doing this. After a second contraction, slowly go back to the starting position. To get the most benefits stretch your calves as far as you can. Perform 3 sets of this exercise consisting of 15 reps each.
Smith Machine Reverse Calf Raises for The Tibialis anterior
When using the smith machine, remember to adjust the barbell on the machine to fit your height and place a raised platform right under the bar. Stand on the platform with the heels of your feet secured on top of it with the balls of your feet extending off it. Your toes should be facing forward at shoulder length distance from each other. Now, place your shoulders under the barbell while maintaining the foot position and push the barbell up by extending your hips and knees until your torso is standing erect. The barbell will help you balance your body while keeping your knees slightly bent. Raise the balls of your feet as you breathe out by extending your toes as high as possible and flexing your calf. The knees need to be kept straight now. Hold this contracted position for a second before you move to your starting position. Perform 3 sets of this exercise consisting of 15 reps each.
Standing Barbell Calf Raise for The Gastrocnemius
Select an unloaded bar if you are trying this exercise for the first time. Place the bar on the back of your shoulders and hold on to it using both arms at each side. Now start pushing your legs up as you raise your heels. Breathe out when you are extending your ankles as high as possible. Maintain this for 2-3 seconds and then go back to the starting position by lowering your heels. Perform 3 sets of this exercise consisting of 15 reps each.