Summer is here and shorts and skirts are in season! Most everyone concentrates on the quadriceps and glutes to create “great legs”. However, the calves are what can really top off a perfect pair of long legs!

Here are some tips how to slim down your calves so you can achieve that long, slim look for those great gams!

Before we get to the tips, we need to understand the mechanics of the calves. Calves are comprised of two muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius is the muscle that is visible to the eye. It has a medial and lateral head and attaches to the Achilles tendon. The soleus is deep within the calf.

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Both have the same function, to raise the heel. The difference is where they are activated to perform the movement (standing vs. sitting). Knowing this, we want to create a 3D approach to make those calves slim and pop!

First, the calves are notorious for knotting up

When this happens, muscle imbalances occur and you shorten the calf. We need to create the length we desire in those calves! As a warm up, begin with a dense foam roller or a stick to roll out your calves.

Spend 1-3 minutes on each calf rolling slowly on all angles of your calf. When you feel a knot, hold the roller over the knot for 30 seconds. After you are done rolling, make sure to stretch your calves.

Choose a stretch that will keep your foot flat on the ground and one that elevates the toes to stretch. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat if necessary. This needs to happen daily.

For strength training, you need to complete a variety of standing and seated exercises

Varying your speed while performing the exercise will help also. Even though we will be lifting higher reps, do not be afraid to lift heavy. Strength training needs to be completed at least two days per week with at least one day of rest in between lifting.

An example could be seated calf raises – 10 (2 count slow) 20 (fast – top half) 10 (2 count slow) x 3-4 sets. Standing calf raises on the floor – single leg – 10 (2 count slow) 20 (1 count fast) x 3-4 sets.

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Plyometrics add another dimension to training

The more power and speed we can add to the routine, the more the calves will act like fast twitch muscles. If you notice on track and field athletes, sprinters and jumpers have the most powerful, developed calves compared to other athletes.

Bunny hops, power bounds, box jumps, even jump rope count as plyometrics. Again, speed and jumping variables will get you faster results. An example would be to choose 4-8 exercises and jump to exhaustion or in a tabata form of 30 seconds active, 10 seconds off, for 4 minutes rotating exercises.

Your choice of cardio can actually help out too!

My top choices are cycling/spinning, sprinting, and running in sand or on inclines. Cycling/Spinning and running in sand over exaggerate the flexion and extension of the foot, which is controlled by the calf.

Sprinting causes you to lift your heel off the ground – which as we discussed in the mechanics section, you are definitely working the two muscles of the calf. Try to incorporate each of the three exercises twice a week.

The hard work will pay off. Start slow and add a little more every two weeks. If you have ever burned your calves out, you know the inflammation can be painful. Keep moving and stretching and make sure to get plenty of water. Now, get out there and show off those calves!

 

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