Figure 1: Start Position
Figure 2: Mid-Position
With warm summer weather, it’s time for shorts, skirts, and short dresses. This means, legs on show. Having shapely calf muscles is something many women strive for and men all too often overlook in their training. Strong foundations will help with general balance, standing, walking, running, and help toward achieving that total body defined look. The muscles of the Calf consist of a large superficial muscle belly called the Gastrocnemius that has two heads (Medial and Lateral) and beneath and below this (from just below the knee to the heel) runs the powerful Soleus muscle. Both muscles work together to stabilise the ankle and raise the heel. Although some may have a “high calf” (Gastrocnemius muscle bellies appearing high up the lower leg), this appearance is often exaggerated with a far better developed Gastrocnemius to Soleus, which is common with those wearing heels all day or fighters bouncing around on their toes for long periods. For this reason and for all-round development, one of my favoured exercises for the Calf is a Seated Calf Raise. A flexed knee lessens the stretch in the Gastrocnemius (a knee flexor), so the movement can emphasize the Soleus. A good sporting comparison is looking at the Calf development of an average cyclist or horse rider (working the Calf with a flexed knee) against that of a jogger or soccer player. In the majority of cases, you’ll note that the cyclist or horse rider has a better developed Soleus.
An exercise for all, here’s how to perform a Seated Calf Raise in the gym:
- Select an appropriate weight. Adjust the height of thigh pads – so that they comfortably rest on your Quadriceps.
- Place the balls of your feet onto the footplate. Try to keep your feet hip-width apart with toes pointing forward.
- Raise your heels, taking the strain on the Calf Muscles. Release the safety lever and inhale as you gently lower your heels to where you feel a stretch on your Calves [Figure 1].
- Exhale, as you raise your heels - fully contracting the Soleus and Gastrocnemius [Figure 2]. Repeat. [Side note: you may wish to perform the first set with less weight and increasing range-of-movement in order to warm up the Achilles Tendon].
- Remember to return the safety lever upon the last repetition.
At home, you can perform this exercise perching on the edge of a sturdy chair or table of the right height and resting the balls of your feet on to a large phone directory or unused book [figure 3]. To add resistance, place the flat side of dumbbells on to your thighs or use a food tray and load as appropriate (you may need someone to hand you the tray).
Figure 3: Performing Seated Calf Raises at home.
Used throughout the day, Calves are a tough little muscle group - so performing high repetitions in a controlled manner is fine for this exercise.
This article is a featured 'Exercise of Month' for Living magazine publications (August 2013 edition). You will find many more of our published articles for free on the Gym Professor online resource - so please just search.
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