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.