Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On calf muscles.

Leg workouts tend to focus primarily on thighs and buns. Calf muscles get thrown in at the end, if at all. So I write you today in defense of the calf, and I argue that you spend more time with this very important muscle. And actually, it's a family of muscles:

The gastrocnemius is the most obvious member of the family, the muscle we typically associate with well-defined calves. It has two parts—the lateral head (outer half) and the medial head (inner half). Below that, the soleus. (I must admit that I didn't know this muscle existed, or that it was part of my calf, before I studied the muscles at Blue Heron Academy.) And the last member of the family, which isn't really a muscle—the Achilles tendon. It attaches the gastrocnemius and the soleus to your heel. Together, this family supports activities like running, jumping, biking, walking up stairs, pushing the gas pedal and reaching for that object on the top shelf.

So during your next leg workout, make it a point to try the following:

1) CALF RAISES: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. Push through your feet to raise your heels, then lower. Repeat 12 to 15 times. Next, put your heels together, toes pointed out in a V shape to target the medial head. Motion and reps are the same. And finally, put your toes together with your heels out in a reverse V shape. This can feel awkward, but it hits your lateral head. Motion and reps are the same. (Holding a dumbbell, standing on the edge of a step, or doing one leg at a time can increase the intensity.)

2) SEATED CALF RAISES: If you're in a gym, there may be a machine for this—but it's just as easy to do with a bench and a dumbbell, or a chair and a heavy box. Sit so that legs are bent at 90 degrees, hold the weight on your thighs and perform 12 to 15 calf raises with your toes pointed forward. This move targets your soleus. (If you can't feel anything, you may need to increase the weight.)

3) TOE WALK: This is quite possibly the easiest calf exercise ever! Grab a dumbbell if you have one, something heavier but not impossible to hold at your side. Stand on your toes as if you were wearing high heels (guys, use your imagination) and walk forward or in a circle for 60 seconds.

The end! So easy. Repeat this basic workout twice through if your calves can handle it. Just don't forget to stretch them out when you're done.

1 comment:

Mrs. Anderson said...

i love any calf exercises! They are my FAV to work out! I see the results there before any other location!

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