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Exercises for Sexy, Sculpted Calves

by Sárka-Jonae Miller
See more articles by Sárka-Jonae Miller

(The Best Years in Life) If you're fortunate enough to live in a warm climate, your lower legs are on display year round. Even in colder areas your bare calves have to be seen sometimes. Show off sculpted, beautiful calves after by performing a few easy exercises.

The gastrocnemius and soleus are the two main muscles of the calves and both should be exercised for a comprehensive workout. But there is also a third muscle of the lower leg, the tibialis anterior, that often gets ignored. Although strengthening this muscle won't give you sexy legs, it will help to maintain a muscle balance with the other calf muscles.

Gastrocnemius Exercise

Standing calf raises are the easiest and most direct way to target the gastrocnemius. This is the muscle closest to the surface of the skin, so toning it will have the greatest impact on the shape of your legs. You can start this exercise standing on the floor, but it will work better if you have a stair, aerobic step, or sturdy box to hang your heels off of, which increases the range of motion for the exercise. You may need to hold onto a banister or put your hand against the wall to steady yourself.

Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Raise up onto the balls of your feet. Hold the top position for a moment and then slowly lower your heels back down. Ten to 20 repetitions is sufficient.

Soleus Exercise

The soleus muscle runs just below the gastrocnemius and can also be strengthened by calf raises. However, targeting this muscle is best achieved by doing the exercise sitting down. For most people, the weight on their legs alone won't be enough to get a workout. Gyms have machines with weighted plates that make the exercise more effective, but you can achieve the same effect at home by placing a dumbbell on each thigh.

Sit with knees at right angles. This might mean you'll need to adjust your seat height or sit on a pillow. Hold the weights against your thighs near the knees. Lift your heels as high as you can making sure to use your calf muscles to raise the weights, not your hands. Lower your heels back to the floor and then repeat 10 times using the heaviest weight you can manage.

 

Tibialis Anterior

The tibialis anterior runs along the front of the lower leg and acts as an antagonist to the muscles on the back of the lower leg. Instead of moving the foot forward to point the toes like the gastroc and soleus, it does the opposite motion and pulls the toes toward the shin.

To strengthen the tibialis anterior, you will need an elastic exercise band, often used in Pilates classes and physical therapy. Start by tying the band around something sturdy, like the leg of a table. Make sure it is secure so that it doesn't come flying at you during the exercise.

Sit facing the band and wrap the end over the ball of your foot. Extend your leg straight in front of you and scoot back to  distance where the band is taut when your toes are pointed. Pull your toes up against the resistance of the band. Point your toes again to do one rep. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.

These three exercises together make one set of calf exercises. Ideally, you should do two to three sets for a complete workout. Stretching afterward could reduce any cramping you might experience the next day, but starting with only one set and working up to two is a better way to ensure you avoid uncomfortable muscle cramps

See also:

Simple Exercises to Strengthen and Shape Your Derrière

Walk Away a Pound a Week

References:

http://www.exrx.net/Lists/ExList/CalfWt.html
http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/seated-calf-raise

About the Author

Sárka-Jonae Miller is a health and fitness expert. She began working in the fitness industry in 2000 while pursuing a BS in journalism at Syracuse University. She became certified as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor in 2003. She has also received training in massage therapy. Sárka also writes fiction. She is the author of the chick lit novel, Between Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's Natural Healing Tips blog or join her on Facebook and Twitter.

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