How to Exercise and Tone Your Calve Muscles
How to exercise and tone your calve muscles
Pins, wheels, pillars are just a few names that refer to our legs amongst people in the fitness world. Toned muscular Strong looking legs can’t be beat. I see a lot of people though that train their legs and they fall short when it comes to calve training. Let’s face it, you can’t build strong pillars if you don’t have a good base or foundation. I notice people at the gym all the time that throw a couple of quick sets of calve exercises at the end of their workout when they are either too tired to really work them hard enough or don’t have enough time to spend on developing this all important muscle. The same way people ignore their abs.
Have you ever seen a person who is really big up top and gets skinnier and skinnier towards their feet? Probably because they have little or no calve muscle development. To me these people look like cartoon characters.
If you think about it when a man see’s a woman with a skirt on and she has toned calves she looks pretty good and when the ladies see a man with shorts on sporting muscular calves I am sure he is equally just as appealing.
The calve muscles take a pounding every day without even exercising them and they don’t get sore from every day regular activities yet they have the weight of your body on them all day. Now that’s pretty impressive don’t you think?
So taking that into consideration that the calves on a daily basis take a pounding without even exercising them means you really have to have a good grasp as to how to properly train your lower legs to have any success.
To make this as easy to understand as possible I am not going to get to technical and talk mechanics with the different muscles in that area.
What you need to know bare minimum is the name of the muscle and what needs to be done to tone and maybe grow some meat on that area.
The most well known and obvious part of the calve muscles is the Gastrocnemius which is the larger muscle on your lower leg that is positioned at the top of the back of your leg.
Below the Gastrocnemius is the Soleus. This muscle is most visible from below your Gastrocnemius to your ankle.
Missed by most people is the Tibialis Anterior which is located on the front of your lower legs. Looking down at your legs the right Tibialis Anterior is on the right side of your shin bone and on the left leg it is on the left side of the shin bone. This muscle is important because it lifts your foot (ok some mechanics). When the Tibialis is developed on someone and you are looking at them from the front, their calves have a diamond shape look to them.
Ok so there are three muscles in the lower legs you should focus on if you want to have a set of lower legs that scream for attention. The Gastrocnemius, Soleus and Tibialis Anterior.
Since the calves already go through so much every day just carrying you around and you are probably super busy every day I don’t believe you need to train the calves for more than 10 to 12 minutes at a time. If what you are looking for is toned muscular calves then I have the perfect workout plan for you.
First off I don’t want you to train your Gastro and Soleus on the same days. Also I think training your Tibialis every 3rd calve workout will work just fine.
For all muscles you have to do a lighter warm up set before performing your work sets. For warm up if you don’t want to do a set with weights you can walk briskly for five minutes or hop up and down on both feet until you feel the blood flowing in your lower legs. Works sets are the sets that are going to get those calves screaming.
Program and exercises
The Gastrocnemius exercises should be performed with a weight that you can get 8 to 12 reps out of a set and no more for three to four work sets.
This muscle responds better to heavier weight. Don’t go to heavy though. If you can’t get to 8 reps you are going to heavy and if you are doing more than 12 then you need to add weight.
Exercises I recommend for this muscle are calve raises on the standing calve raise machine if you have access to a gym. If you don’t have access to a gym or just want to change up the first exercise I would perform standing single leg calve raises on a raised platform with arch and heel off the edge holding a dumbbell in the hand on the side of the leg you are working on. So if you are working on your right leg then holding the dumbbell in your right hand. Stretch after you are done.
The Soleus muscle should be worked on a separate day than the Gastro.
For this muscle you will use lighter weights and perform more repetitions. Same amount of sets, three to four work sets and a warm up set beforehand. Rep range should be 12 to 18, no need to go higher.
For the Soleus muscle your exercise should be in a seated position. So seated calve raises are in order. If you don’t have access to a gym you can place a barbell with weights on each side across the bottoms of your thighs just above your knees. The balls of your feet on a raised platform so that when you lower your heel you get a good stretch in the muscle. Stretch after you are done.
Last but not least the Tibialis Anterior which is in the front of your lower leg and really does make a big difference in how your legs look.
This one is easy, keep the reps high. Do three or four sets for as many reps as you can perform. Stand on a platform where you can have your heels on the edge and your arch and balls of your feet off the platform. Hold on to something, the wall or whatever to keep your balance. The platform should be high enough so that you can drop your toes downward as far as you can without sliding off the platform.
To perform this exercise you drop your toes down as far as you can and then raise them up past parallel to the ground and back down then up etc. No weight necessary. Stretch after you are done.
Scheduling your workouts
So you have your muscle groups to work and sets and reps now you need how many days a week etc to work them. Since these muscles are already very strong they can be worked fairly often. My current workout is training calves three days in a seven day period.
Here’s what I suggest you do. Work Gastro and Tibialis workout one. Soleus workout two. Gastro workout three. Soleus and Tibialis workout four. Then repeat the cycle.
So using days of the week it would look something like this. Monday do workout one, Wednesday do workout two, Friday do workout three, the following Monday do workout four. On the next Wednesday start the cycle over with workout one.
Key here is not to work your calves two days in a row and give them a two day rest period after a few workouts to make sure you don’t overtrain.
You can also substitute different exercises that work the same muscle groups if you come across some. Key is the weight and rep range for the certain muscles. Gastro heavy, Soleus lighter and Tibialis no weight.
These are all suggestions and each person will benefit with a tweak here and there so do what you feel is working for you. Whether you are just wanting to do some toning or want to pack on some muscle my workout program will work.
Well I think I have quite a bit covered here. Summer is coming soon so you better get cracking on those wheels of yours so you can show them off.
Good luck and if you have any questions feel free to ask.
Instructional video on how to perform a standing calf raise
© 2010 Grant Handford