6 Top Calf Exercises For Stability and Mobility

Build ankle and calf strength; both will help you gain increased stability, mobility, strength, and performance, and decrease your risk of injury.


By Jordan Smith |

We don’t often do calf exercises; as cyclists, most of our ankle movements take place only within a limited range of motion—the pedal stroke. So when you’re training off the bike, it’s important to add in some traditional resistance exercises along with dynamic plyometric movements to build ankle and calf strength. That will help you gain increased stability, mobility, strength, and performance, and decrease your risk of injury, says Kara Miklaus, NASM-certified trainer and co-owner of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California. Adding calf exercises into your regular training routine can help.

In most workouts—such as walking, running, squatting, and lunging—you go into a pattern called “triple extension,” which means you’re extending your hip, knee, and ankle at the same time, Miklaus explains. And, the ankle extension is actually a joint action called “plantar flexion” (think pointing your toes). This is the action directly responsible for building your calf strength. However, if you want to give your calves some extra attention, this circuit is designed specifically to target those muscles.

How to do it: Perform this circuit, demonstrated by Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., and WORK Training Studio founder, 2 to 4 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. You will need a set of weights or a barbell, an agility ladder or a jump rope, and a treadmill.

View this post on Instagram

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

We’ve had the question before, “how come you don’t train calves at WORK?!” The truth is, we train calves all the time! Any time you walk/run, squat, lunge, you go into a pattern called “triple extension.” That means you’re extending your hip, knee, and ankle at the same time. The ankle “extension” is actually a special joint action called “plantar-flexion;” think pointing your toes down. This is the action directly responsible for building your calves. – – – Now, while we think we do a good job of hitting all the angles 😉, maybe you think your calves need some extra work, or you’re an athlete in a specific sport (think cycling) where ankle movement takes place only within a limited range of motion. Adding in some traditional resistance exercises and then more dynamic plyometric movements can stimulate all kinds of cross-training benefits: increased stability, increased mobility, increased strength, increased performance, and decreased risk of injury. Who doesn’t want that?! – – – Here’s a circuit to get you started: 1. Squat to Calf Raise x 10 2. Forward/Backward Hops x 20 3. Seated Calf Raise x 10 4. Lateral Hops x 20 5. Standing Calf Raise x 10 6. Hill Sprints x 20sec. (*Note: Hops are counted every time your foot hits the ground.) – – – Depending on your current fitness level and conditioning, aim to complete 2 to 4 sets of this circuit mixed in with your regular training. You can always adjust the reps as necessary. Now, get to WORK, and have fun showing off your sweet calves this summer 😎

A post shared by WORK (@work_training_studio) on

A post shared by WORK (@work_training_studio) on Feb 6, 2020 at 9:09am PST


Squat to Calf Raise

Start standing with a weighted barbell you can squat comfortably resting on your upper back, feet shoulder width apart. Alternatively, you can rack two dumbbells at your shoulders. Send hips back and bend knees to squat, making sure knees stay in line with your feet—not wobbling off to one side or collapsing in.

Lower down only as far as you can without letting your knees travel forward beyond the tips of your toes. Thrust hips forward to stand back up. At the top, transfer your weight onto your toes with heels lifted. Repeat 10 times.


Forward/Backward Hop

Spread out an agility ladder or jump rope on the ground so you have a mark to jump over. Standing on one foot, quickly hop forward and backward over the line. Repeat 20 times on each leg. Hops are counted every time your foot hits the ground.


Seated Calf Raise

Sit on a bench and hold a moderately heavy dumbbell in each hand, resting one weight on each thigh. Start with the balls of your feet slightly elevated resting on a mat, heels hanging down. Remain seated and flex your calf muscles, rolling from the balls of your feet onto your toes. Repeat 10 times.


Lateral Hop

Spread an agility ladder or jump rope on the ground so you have a mark to jump over. Standing on one foot, quickly hop left and right over the line. Repeat 20 times per leg. Hops are counted every time your foot hits the ground.


Standing Calf Raise

Hold a heavy weight in each hand. Stand with the balls of your feet slightly elevated on a mat, heels on the ground. Lift your heels, rolling onto the balls of your feet then up onto your toes. Pause briefly at the top then return your heels to the ground. Repeat 10 times.


Hill Sprint

Set the treadmill to an incline and speed that feels challenging. Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Rest for 40 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

READ MORE ON: ankle strength calf exercises exercises workouts

Copyright © 2020 Rodale Inc.