January 14, 2022 10 min read
If you are looking for a simple way to get runner-standard calves, the calf raise is a great place to start. It is an easy exercise with an excellent result on the leg muscles. The calf muscles are one of the most difficult muscles to build because they evade many full-body exercises. While they are activated in standing exercises, the results are minimal compared to what you can achieve with cake raises. We have provided some tips to help you build calf muscles worthy of a double-take.
The calf muscles can easily slip out of your mind when focusing on more apparent muscles like the chest, arms, and abs. This is quite unfortunate as the calf provides a sharply jacked physique. The friendly neighborhood track star or star cyclist’s beach bod and killer calves attest to this.
Calf raises are lower body exercises specially designed to isolate and stimulate the calves.
This is not only great for firmer, toned legs but is also crucial to functional activities. When many think of functional muscles, the first thing that pops in their head is the arm and shoulder muscles for lifting or the core and back muscles for posture. Rarely do they consider the calf muscle, which is, in fact, a significant player in ankle stability and walking movements?
Calf raises not only targets your calf muscles but also other neighboring lower leg components like the Achilles tendon.
The calf raises flexes, lengthens, tightens, and stretches the calves. The calves are very stubborn muscles that are often ditched for more obvious muscle groups due to their high degree of lack of response to stimulation. However, with calf raises, all you need to do is follow each instruction with proper form, and in no time, you can form strong and beautiful calves.
The mechanics of the calf raise is simple.
It involves raising your heels off the floor (or slightly elevated surface) and standing the balls of your feet. It is low impact with excellent results on the legs. Although there are multiple variations, each variation primarily engages the calves and focuses secondarily on other leg muscles.
To get a better idea of how calf raises impact your calves, you first need to understand the intricacy of the muscles. Contrary to popular gym-goers’ opinion, the calf muscle isn't one big, indistinguishable muscle.
It is a pair of muscles called the gastrocnemius, plantaris, and the soleus muscles.
Calf raises target the muscles on the back of your lower legs that help in the movement of ankle extension and joint flexion. Although it might look dismissible, when repeated diligently with an increasing amount of resistance, it effectively strengthens the body's muscles.
Primarily, calf raises target the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
The gastrocnemius is the major calf muscle of the leg that assists in the flexing of the knee and foot. This muscle is the visible part of the calf as it is a superficial muscle that lies beneath the skin. When stretched and trained for mass gain, the gastrocnemius is visible as a V-shaped ball behind your legs. The gastrocnemius is essential for the movements of the lower leg during climbing, walking, and running movements. This makes sense as a long involvement in these activities would often lead to more pronounced calf muscles.
The gastrocnemius connects to the Achilles which connects directly to the heel.
The gastrocnemius muscle also splits to connect to the inside and outside of your knee. This aids the flexion and extension of the needs during movement. Another primary calf muscle that is worked during calf raises is the soleus. The soleus is a calf muscle that lies below the gastrocnemius. Although it is not as evident as the gastrocnemius, it is equally a functional muscle.
The soleus muscle is a flat muscle that originates from the upper parts of the tibia and fibula bones.
It joins the gastrocnemius and attaches to the heel, where it stops. The soleus muscle assists in the plantar flexion of the foot. During calf raises, you activate other leg muscles like the peroneus muscles. These muscles include the peroneus brevis and peroneus longus. Also known as the fibularis muscles, the peroneus muscles equally assist with plantar flexion.
The peroneus brevis is a short muscle located at the lateral part of the lower leg, deeper than the peroneus longus.
It is one of the three peroneus muscles that aid the plantar flexion of the leg. The peroneus longus, on the other hand, lies more superficial than the peroneus brevis. It is the most significant peroneus muscle and begins at the top of the fibula, extending laterally down the leg, and tapers into a tendon. It enables the movements of ankles and feet, allowing you to flex your joints. Together, these muscles help to keep your ankles stable.
Calf raises help strengthen these muscles, resulting in better mobility and acting as a safeguard against injuries to the legs.
Depending on the degree of leg flexion, you are doing your legs a favor by performing calf raises. Calf raises go past the calf muscles and work their magic on surrounding muscles.
You can never get too much calf training. If you have not started focusing on calf workouts for your legs, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Training your calves is essential for various functional reasons that range from walking, jumping, and full-force races. Your calves bear the brunt of your weight every day and require the strength needed to propel you without fatigue.
Some benefits of calf raise include:
Calf raises can be done by anyone regardless of their fitness level. They require no sudden burst of energy, immense strength, or muscle endurance. As beginners, the only burn you might feel comes from your calves getting more action than they probably ever have.
To do the calf raise:
Calf raises may be simple, but they provide impressive results on the legs. What makes it a fantastic leg exercise is you can perform it in different modifications. Calf raises are scalable, allowing you to adjust them to suit your fitness needs. Some of these variations include:
The assisted calf raise is a simpler version of the basic calf raise. It is a significant modification option for beginners or individuals suffering from an injury to the legs. The assisted calf raise is a basic calf raise performed while holding stable support for balance. It is a great way to train your body for stability while equally getting great results on your calves. The assisted calf raise can be used as leverage to prepare your leg muscles for more difficult calf raise variations. It is also an excellent rehabilitation exercise for people recovering from injuries like a sprained ankle.
To do the assisted calf raise:
While the seated calf raise doesn't profoundly affect the gastrocnemius muscle, it still works wonders in strengthening the soleus muscle and toning the legs.
The seated calf raise is an excellent option for people who find it challenging to stay on their feet due to injuries or other reasons. It removes the need for balance and provides a more low-intensity workout for gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts.
To do the seated calf raise:
Dumbbells, kettlebells, weighted plates, barbells, and even sandbags increase the difficulty of calf raises. It places more weight on your body, increasing the effort needed to stay up during the raises.
To do this variation:
The dumbbell calf raise requires more energy and focus on holding proper form.
This is a calf raise exercise variation done on a step or calf block. It increases the range of motion of the calf, thereby stretching the muscles further.
To do this variation:
There are a lot of factors that go into ensuring that you perform a perfect cake raise. These factors include your position, posture, and even breathing technique.
Here are some tips to help you achieve perfect calf raises:
The calves are an integral part of your fitness and deserve to be treated as such. They are generally safe and scalable to fit your fitness goals regardless of your fitness level. Calf raise might be easy to perform, but when your form is compromised, a lot can go wrong. It is essential to practice good form, take it in stride, and listen to your body.
For the best results, combine the calf raises with other calf exercises to create the ultimate leg day program for impressive calf strength and stronger legs.