You work your quads, hamstrings, backside and thighs. But what about those shapely muscles right behind your legs that you may be ignoring? Yes, your calves. They may not be the first thing people notice about your gams, but if you develop nicely toned calves, it certainly will be. Think about some of those gorgeous celebrity legs in the latest high-heel shoe (hello, Carrie Underwood). It’s that curvy and toned calf that gives the legs that finishing touch making them look sexy, long and lean.
So what should you do to carve those calves into a work of art? Here are nine of the best exercises to help you reach that goal:
1. Barbell Seated Calf Raise: Sit at the edge of a chair or bench and place a barbell across your legs. Roll through your toes like you would in a standing calf raise and then lower back down. Again, try not to rest your heels on the floor so you constantly keep the tension on your calves. The heavier the barbell, the more challenging this will be to do.
2. Calf Press: Here you will want to use a leg press machine, but instead of placing the focus on your quads, you will be working your calves. If you're in a standing leg press machine, roll your body up and down through your toes using as much weight as you can handle. If you're using a lying leg press machine, let your heels hang off the edge and roll through your toes. Be sure the machine’s locked mechanism is in place in case the press falls out from under your toes.
3. Bodyweight Calf Raises: Stand while facing a wall and place your hands on it. Rise up onto your toes so your heels are slightly off the ground. Roll through your toes so that your body goes up a few inches. Now slowly lower your heels down, but don’t let them touch the floor. If you find you keep hitting the floor, hang off the end of an elevated surface like a low bench or stool.
4. Dumbbell Calf Raise: This one is a bit tricky and requires some focus and concentration. Place a dumbbell on the floor (you want one that can easily roll) and put one of your feet on the handle. Make sure you are holding onto something sturdy with your hands. Lift yourself up so that the other foot is off the ground while the other one is on the dumbbell. Now roll the toes of the foot on the dumbbell so that it rolls under your foot. Go very slowly as you can easily lose balance if the weight rolls out from under your foot. Do a few sets for each leg.
5. Banded Calf Raises: Stand with both feet on top of the center of a resistance band and hold the handles by your shoulders as if you are about to do a press. Slowly roll up and down on your toes while keeping the band under your feet. Since there are many levels of resistance bands, choose one that is the most challenging for you.
6. Boxing: Sure, it’s more of a cardio workout, but since you spend most of your time in a boxer’s stance and shuffling on your toes, your calves are getting a super workout. And since most boxing classes are an hour, that’s an hour of hardcore calf attack.
7. Jumping Rope: Just like boxing, you spend a lot of time on your toes while jumping rope and the longer you jump, the more those calves will be working on getting toned.
8. Stair Climbing: Every time you walk up stairs, your calves are hard at work. Attack a flight of stairs by running up and down. If you stay on your toes on your way up, your calves are going to wake up and take notice. Even better—you’ll get one awesome cardio workout at the same time.
9. Balance Board: Yes, these boards will help your balance and coordination, but they are also great for your calves as you roll around on the board causing your calf muscles to kick in to keep your balance.
Summer is almost here so take advantage of the time you have left before you start showing off your legs. Your newly purchased espadrilles are going to look even better with some toned and tanned calves coming out of them.