There are some exercise where you can immediately feel how hard your body is working, and then there are some that can feel pointless while you’re doing them. Calf raises often fall into the latter category – but beneath the surface they are doing a great deal of good, especially if you’re a regular runner.
Common running injuries like achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis are often related to weak calf muscles. The two main muscles in the calf – the soleus and the gastrocnemius – are both put under intense pressure when running. Strengthening them through calf raises will help stave off the threat of injury.
Even if you don’t run or play much sport, the calf raise is still a move worth acquainting yourself with. The calves are tricky muscles to target in the gym, and a few calf raise variations are your best bet for bulking up your lower legs.
How To Do Calf Raises
Exercise don’t come much simpler than the calf raise. Stand up straight, then push through the balls of your feet and raise your heel up until you are standing on your toes. Then lower back to the start.
That’s the basic movement, but there are a whole host of variations to try. One of the most common types of calf raise is on a step. Starting on the edge of the step with your heels hanging out over the back for calf raises allows you to work the full range of the muscle. Another effective variation is to do calf raises with your knees bent, which is surprisingly tough, or single-leg calf raises.
Single-leg calf raises can also highlight any imbalances in the strength in your legs. Try doing as many calf raises as you can on each leg to see if you’re able to rack up a load more on one side. If the answer is yes, do some extra work on that leg to even up your calf strength.
It’s also a good idea to increase the difficulty of calf raises with weights. Holding a dumbbell in each hand while doing standing calf raises, or resting a weight on your legs while doing seated calf raises, will help prepare the calf to handle the extra pressure put on it during sports like running.