4 Calf Exercises for Strength and Flexibility
You depend on your calves for every pedal stroke. So, although they aren’t the primary movers, it’s important to do calf exercises off the bike to strengthen and stretch these key supporting muscles.
Calves matter to cyclists because they are working through the entire revolution of your pedal stroke, Bridget Sherratt, a USA Triathlon certified coach from Scotch Plains, New Jersey tells Bicycling. So you want them strong and ready to handle the demands of all those miles.
The Benefits of Calf Exercises for Cyclists
This strength-building routine, featuring a mix of calf exercises, is the perfect routine for building up those lower-body leg muscles. It combines traditional resistance exercises with dynamic plyometric movements to build ankle and calf strength and flexibility. “The first two exercises in this series isolate the gastrocnemius, the largest calf muscle,” says Sherratt. “Then, the plyometric moves work the tendons and ligaments in the calves and ankles, which is important for balance and stability.”
Sherratt suggests you wear good training shoes while doing this workout because these moves work your soft tissues, which can easily get injured.
“Don’t forget to stretch too,” Sherratt adds. “You need to strengthen and stretch both the front and back of your lower legs so they are in balance.”
When it comes to your calves and riding, pay attention to how they feel when you get off the bike. “If your calves hurt after a ride or late at night, it’s often a sign of dehydration or overtraining,” Sherratt says.
How to use this list: Perform this circuit, designed and demonstrated by Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., WORK Training Studio founder, three times for the listed amount of reps or time. Depending on your fitness level, you can adjust reps as necessary, drop to a lower weight or use your body weight if necessary.
You will need a set of dumbbells, an exercise mat, and an agility ladder or jump rope. You can do this workout three times a week. After each move, walk on your heels for a minute to strengthen your tibialis, the large muscle in your shin, so the whole lower leg builds strength, advises Sherratt.
1. Standing Dumbbell Calf Raise
Hold a heavy weight in each hand. Stand with the balls of feet slightly elevated on a mat or step, heels on the ground. Lift heels, rolling onto the balls of feet and up to toes. Hold for a second before slowly lowering heels. Repeat 15 times.
2. Seated Dumbbell Calf Raise
Sit on a bench or chair with a mat directly in front of you. Holding a medium-weight dumbbell on each thigh, put the balls of feet on the mat, heels down. Remain seated and flex calf muscles, lifting heels. Repeat 15 times.
3. Single-Leg Lateral Hop
With an agility ladder or jump rope on the ground, stand on one foot, then quickly hop left and right over the line. Count each time your foot hits the ground up to 30 times per leg. Do both legs.
4. Ladder Shuffle
Stand slightly behind and to the right of an agility ladder with feet outside the first rung. Leading with left foot, step to the far left of the first box. Plant right foot next to it. Next, step left foot on the outside of the ladder. Lift and plant right foot to the far left side of the second rung. The left foot should follow. Continue this pattern through the ladder. This is one “lap.” Switch lead feet. Once you have the steps down, run through this drill as fast as you can without hitting the ladder’s edges. Perform as many laps as you can in 40 seconds.