The calves are one of the most difficult muscle groups to effectively work on during exercise. However, whether your sport is running, cycling, swimming, or even just walking, it's very easy to end up with a calf or shin related injury that may end up having an impact on your day-to-day life. With that in mind, one of the best things you can do to avoid injury is to engage in calf exercises that work on both the lower part of the calf (the soleus), and the upper section (the gastrocnemius).
If you're looking for calf exercises to do at home (without the help of a trainer), you may find that it's beneficial to invest in a couple of calf compression sleeves before you get started. Not only will these help to support your muscles while you work out, but they'll help to reduce your chances of injury at the same time.
1. Basic Calf Raises
Find a stair step in your home, or a stack of hardcover books if you live in an apartment, and position your feet around a shoulder-width apart with your heels hanging over the end of your chosen surface. Lift yourself onto your tiptoes and hold the position for a second, before lowering your heels downwards until your feet are at an upward angle, then hold again. If you do use books, make sure the stack is stable enough to manage your weight.
2. Single Calf Raises
The more time you spend trying calf exercises to do at home, the more you'll be able to challenge yourself. Try a single calf raise by standing on the floor with your feet together, then left your right foot and place the top of it against your left calf. Lift yourself up onto your tiptoes, and hold the position for a second before lowing yourself back down. Don't forget to switch sides so that you can build up both legs.
3. Stretch your Soleus
The soleus - the lower part of your calf - is best activated when bending your knees. A good way to stretch out these muscles is to sit on a chair, holding weights above your thighs as you lift your heels away from the floor. Squeeze your muscles tightly for a moment, then lower your heels back to the floor and repeat again. Try extending your range of motion in these calf exercises to do at home by balancing your feet on a stack of books or a bucket.
4. Run Uphill
While running is a great way to work out your legs, the best way to build muscles in your calves is to run uphill. Try to find a nearby hill that's around 100 yards long, and jog for a few minutes on flat ground to warm your muscles before you reach the bottom of the hill. Run to the top of the hill (try not to push yourself to go too fast), and then jog back down. Try to repeat the run at least eight to ten times, until you're out of breath. It's a good idea to use your calf compression sleeves here, as uphill running can sometimes be a cause of unwanted shin splints.