(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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's
Natural Healing Tips
blog or join her on
Sarka-Jonae Miller's "Between Boyfriends eBook"
When "the one" breaks her heart, Jan vows
to change. Read the book Hollywood & Vine magazine says "presents a unique
twist on the chick-lit genre."
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