Top 5 Calf Exercises Without Weights : Exercises to Build & Tone Muscle
How to Build Calf Muscle Without Equipment
Your calves consist of two different muscles that must be worked to become well-developed—the gastrocnemius and the soleus.However, you can effectively exercise and grow both your gastrocnemius and soleus at home, for free. Soon, you'll be ready to conquer the highest mountains and longest running trails with your calves of steel.
Exercising Your Calves
Do double-leg calf raises.This is a classic exercise for toning and strengthening the calf muscles. This workout utilizes your own body weight instead of a weight machine to help build muscle mass. It strengthens both the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. To start off, you will need to stand near a wall to balance yourself, if needed, and your feet should be hip-width apart with your ankles, knees and hips vertically aligned.
- Push your body upward on the balls of both feet. Make sure that your abdominal muscles are engaged so that your back remains straight instead of shifted forward or backward.
- For a more intense workout, you can place the balls of your feet on a step so that your heels are on the lower level. Push up with the balls of your feet to lift your heels as high as you can off the floor. Then, slowly lower your heels back down to the floor. Repeat.
- Additionally, you can add weight to strengthen your calves further, such as holding milk jugs, cans, a heavy backpack or something else while you do the exercises.
Practice single-leg calf raises.The intensity of the calf raise exercise is enhanced when you do one leg at a time. This is because your full body weight must be lifted by one leg instead of two. Again, stand near a wall in case you need to balance yourself, and put your left leg behind you. Ensure that the ankle, knee and hip of the right leg are all aligned vertically.
- Push your body upward on the ball of your right foot. Make sure that your abdominal muscles are engaged so that your back remains straight as you are lifted up.
- For a more intense workout, you can place the ball of your right foot on a step so that your heel is on the lower level. Push up with the ball of your foot to lift your heel as high as you can off the floor. Bring your heel down.
- Repeat with the left foot.
- Additionally, you can add weight to strengthen your calves further, such as holding a milk jug, a can or two, a heavy backpack or something else while you perform the single-leg calf raise.
- If you need to, hold something heavy with one hand and place the other hand on the wall to help balance you.
- It is important to work each leg equally to avoid one calf becoming thicker than the other.
Try to do donkey calf raises.To do this exercise, you will need a bench or some other sturdy object and a partner--but no equipment is required. Bend over and grasp the sturdy object or bench with your hands. Your toes should be facing forward, and be sure not to lock your knees.
- Have your partner climb onto your lower back near your tailbone. The heavier the person, the harder the workout.
- Raise your heels off the floor by pushing up on the balls of your feet. Pause, then lower your heels back to the floor, and repeat.
- You can add more weight by having your partner hold something heavy like a backpack or milk jug while you do the exercise.
Do box jumps.Box jumps can strengthen your calf muscles and make them more powerful. When you practice this exercise regularly, your muscles are trained to react and contract quickly. This not only builds muscle but allows you to jump and spring in different directions much more quickly.
- Get a box that is high enough for you to get a workout but not so high that you might strain or hurt yourself. You may need to build up from a lower level box to a higher level one over time.
- Stand in front of the box. Use the balls of your feet to jump onto the box, landing on the balls and toes of your feet. Jump back down to the floor, and repeat.
- Do this 8 -10 times per set. As with calf raises, the more often you do this, the easier it will become. At that point, it will be necessary to challenge yourself with more reps.
- It isn’t a good idea to hold weights or anything else when you do box jumps so you can still catch yourself if you fall.
Jump rope.When you use a jump rope, your calf is constantly engaged. This helps build muscle, provides a good cardiovascular workout and makes you quicker on your feet as well. Do this exercise regularly, and see why you don’t need weight equipment to tone your calf muscles.
- To jump rope effectively, hold your hands out to your sides, and make small, fast circles with your wrists to spin the rope. Jump an inch or so off the ground over the rope as it moves under your feet.
- Jump rope at least 3 times a week. Start out doing just 1 set for 2 minutes and then advance to several sets.You should strive for 15 minutes per session at minimum.
- If you don’t have a jump rope or find this activity difficult, run on your toes in the same spot instead.
Exercise your front calf muscles.It is also important to exercise the tibialis anterior, the muscle that runs along the outer front of your calf and alongside the shin. To exercise this muscle, try walking on your heels or simply standing on your heels and turning your toes up toward your shins.
Create a calf workout schedule.You will want to work your calves several times a week, giving them a rest between workout days to repair and build muscle. If you have not worked your calves before, follow a beginner's workout schedule. If you have been working on your calves for a while, consider an intermediate or advanced workout schedule.
- For a beginner's workout, do double-leg calf raises for 2 sets of 12 reps.
- For an intermediate workout, do double-leg calf raises for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps, then single-leg calf raises for 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
- For an advanced workout, do box jumps for 1 set of 5 reps, then double-leg calf raises for 2 sets of 8 to 10 reps, then single-leg calf raises or jump squats for 2 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
- You should feel a sore strain in your muscles when you finish your sets. That feeling is the feeling of your muscles tearing and newer, stronger and larger ones replacing them.
- With every calf workout week, try doing a few sets more.
Stretching Your Calf Muscles
Learn to stretch your calves correctly.Calf muscles need to be stretched regularly to keep the muscle from becoming short and tight and restricting your movement. It is important to utilize stretching as a part of your calf building regiment after your workout. Breathe slowly in through your nose and out your mouth as you stretch.
- Hold your stretches for at least 20 seconds. As your calf muscles become more flexible, you will be able to hold stretches for longer. Aim to reach a single 60-second holdor2–3 sets of 20 seconds each.
Do a step drop stretch.Use the same step you use to workout your calves with or a curb works too. Put the ball of your foot on the higher step or ledge, and slowly lower your heel down to the lower level. You will feel it stretching your calf muscles as you try to touch your heel to the ground.
- You may need to do this next to a wall or something else to balance yourself if needed.
- Don’t force your heel all the way down if it hurts. It may take some time but you will be able to do this with practice.
Try the towel pull method.Sit down, and put your legs straight out in front of you, keeping your back straight. Wrap a towel around the ball of your right foot and hold each side of the towel with one hand. Slowly lean back, and pull on the towel until you feel a slight burn in the calf muscle. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and switch feet.
- The towel pull stretch works best with bare feet.
Practice the runner’s stretch.This is a commonly performed stretch that is great for your gastrocnemius muscle. To do the stretch, keep your back straight, and extend your arms. Place both palms against a wall or other sturdy object, while you extend your right leg behind you, heel pressed to the ground. Move your left leg into a forward lunge and, bending your elbows, slowly lean forward.
- To stretch the soleus muscle deeper in your calf, place your toe up against the wall with your heel on the ground. Lean into this with a bent knee so the top of your foot flexes toward you.
Do a standing calf stretch.Stand with legs straight and at hip-level. Bend forward at the waist so your fingers reach the floor. While touching the floor, move your hands slowly in front of your body, supporting more weight on your hands as you do so. Then move your hands back to your starting position.
Do a sitting calf stretch.Sit down with your legs in front of you. Flex your toes toward you, then reach out and grasp the balls of your feet. Pull your toes toward you until you feel a slight burn in your calf. Hold for 30 seconds or up to 1 minute.
Stretch your front calf muscle.The tibialis anterior is the muscle that runs along the outer front of your calf, alongside the shin. Try a couple simple techniques to stretch this muscle:
- While seated on the floor, stretch your legs out in front of you and point your toes.
- While seated in a chair, tuck your feet back under the chair and rest the tops of your feet on the floor, with your toes facing behind you.
Do yoga.While yoga is most well-known for its relaxation and stretching benefits, it can also help build and tone muscles. One pose that is particularly effective at working out and stretching your calves at the same time is Downward-Facing Dog. While you don’t need any special equipment to do this pose, you will need a space with enough room to do it.
- Get into a pushup position with both your hands and toes on the floor. Lift your hips, keeping your hands and toes on the ground, until your body is shaped like an upside-down “V”.
- Hold this position for 2 seconds, while lowering your right heel onto the floor. Lift your right heel back up, and lower your left heel for 2 seconds.
- Do 2 sets of 10 reps. Rest between each set for at least 30 seconds. As time goes on and you get better at doing this pose, you can increase the number of sets that you do and the length of time that you hold the pose.
Making Exercise a Part of Your Life
Run, walk or hike.These activities all require your calves to carry your body weight while doing a more intense activity for a longer period of time than you normally do. This is especially true of running and hiking uphill. Your calves have to work very hard to get your body over steep hills, so consider using uneven terrain to maximize your calf workout.
- You can use an elliptical to build your calf muscles and protect your joints at the same time. Many ellipticals have an incline feature that will work out your muscles further while still being comparatively low-impact.
- If you do walk, run or hike on uneven ground, pay attention to your footing so you don't trip and hurt yourself.
Participate in sports.There are many activities that you can engage in regularly that are fun and will help you tone and build your calf muscles. Consider sports activities that require you to run, jump and push off of your calf muscles for quick acceleration or directional changes. These include soccer, basketball, tennis, kickboxing and other sports that mainly utilize your legs.
Take an aerobics step or dance class.Step and dance classes require you to use your calves a lot. When you move on or off a step, bend your knees or push off the balls of your feet, you will be working your calf muscles. Check online or in your local phone book for ballet, jazz, hip-hop or aerobic step classes near you.
Swim.If you are recovering from an injury or cannot participate in high-impact activities because of certain medical conditions, consider swimming. When you swim, you use your leg muscles, including calf muscles. It is easy on the joints because there is no impact involved, and is a fairly safe way to make your calves stronger.
Cycle a lot.Technically, a bicycle is a type of equipment--but it's one common to many households. If your climate and weather conditions permit, take your bike out for a spin. It's a great way to target the muscles in your calves. Another advantage of biking is that there are many ways to challenge yourself.
- Switching gears can heighten the intensity of your bicycle workout as well as biking over hills and rougher surfaces like grass instead of pavement.
Maintain a healthy diet.Eating fruits and vegetables will give you the energy you need to workout hard. Protein filled foods such as beans, lentils, quinoa, eggs, white meat, white fish, nuts and cheese, as well as protein supplements that can be added to shakes, will help to increase your muscle growth. Don't forget to drink plenty of water.
- If you are a man, eat at least 60 grams of protein every day, while women should get at least 50 grams.
- Drinking plenty of fluids is essential to any workout. Drink at least 64 ounces of liquids a day, preferably water.
QuestionWill building calf muscle help me walk with more balance, or walk without a cane?
Personal TrainerPersonal TrainerExpert AnswerStrengthening the calf muscles will help, but really all the muscles of the legs, hips, lower back and foot are used in walking. Muscles to focus on for walking include the front of the thigh and the foot-lifters, the tibialis anterior in the front of the shin. Standing on one leg, lifting the toes and holding the leg lifted in front of you are good exercises to help with walking.Thanks!
QuestionTo get protein from beef, should the meat be well done or slightly pink? Another problem I have is that I hate chicken. What would be good alternative to chicken?
Personal TrainerPersonal TrainerExpert AnswerBeef can be cooked any way you like it. Eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans, fish, lentils, seeds and nuts are all good alternatives to chicken as protein sources.Thanks!
QuestionCan ankle weights help with this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAbsolutely. Wearing ankle weights while doing calf raises, jumping rope, etc. will make the exercises a little more difficult and you will see results faster.Thanks!
QuestionWill calf muscles help me jump higher?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. The calves are a big part of jumping, and training them will improve your jump height.Thanks!
QuestionHow would I work on my outer calf?Samuel GCommunity AnswerTurn your feet inward when doing double calf raises. Pay attention to any unusual pain in the joints.Thanks!
QuestionDo jumping jacks help with this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, these work the calves, balance, and are good cardio.Thanks!
QuestionDo squats help build calves?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNot really. When doing squats, most of the strain is placed on the glutes and quads.Thanks!
QuestionAre there specific foods that help legs or calves?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerProtein is what builds muscle, In order to gain good muscle, preferably consume about 1 gram per pound of body weight. Foods high in protein include dairy products, fish, eggs, chicken, nuts, broccoli, and beef.Thanks!
QuestionHow long will it take for me to see results?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on a couple things. 1. How regularly and how hard you train 2. Your individual height, weight, metabolism, etc. It takes some people longer to build muscle than others.Thanks!
QuestionDoes a man's calf muscles get smaller after an orgasm?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. There is no logical reason a body would do that. Calves can get small due to inactivity, "you use it or you lose it."Thanks!
How do you heal a torn calf muscle
- If you don't feel any burn in your legs, the exercise isn't being performed correctly or hasn't been repeated enough. Keep trying until your legs feel sore. The feeling will go away in time, and you'll be left stronger!
- Working your thighs, butt and abdominals will help you strengthen and grow calf muscles as well. Exercises like squats, lunges, leg raises and jumping jacks are beneficial.
- Keep a variety of exercises in your workout routine. The different motions and strains will shock the calves so there will be a stronger effect on muscle growth.
- Be patient. Your calves will grow, but it takes dedication, patience and, of course, work.
- Irish dance also helps to build strong calf muscles.
- If you are recovering from a leg injury, try starting with seated calf raises. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your shins vertical. Push against the floor with the balls of your feet, lift your heels as high as you can, then slowly lower them.Lean forward and push down on your lower thighs for more resistance.
- Ensure that both legs are equally worked.
- Don’t overdo your workouts. Customize your exercises to match your fitness level so you don’t risk injuring yourself.
- Consult with a fitness professional to ensure that you are doing exercises and stretches correctly.
- If you suffer severe persistent leg pain after a workout, talk to your doctor.
- Always talk to a medical professional before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have ever had a foot, ankle or calf muscle injury.
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