Two major muscles, called the gastrocnemius and the soleus, run down the back of the lower leg. The soleus is a long, wide muscle that sits below the smaller, more bulbous gastrocnemius. These two primary muscles form your calves. These muscles can be strengthened with bodyweight calf exercises.
Since your calf muscle contracts to extend your feet and toes, strong calf muscles are important in a variety of sports. Perform calf exercises without equipment two times a week to keep them defined and muscular.
1. Calf Raises
Calf raises can be performed anywhere there is an elevated surface — such as a stairwell or a curb. Include these in your bodyweight calf exercises, as demonstrated by ExRx.net.
- Find a step approximately 4 inches off the ground.
- Stand with the back half of your foot hanging off the step.
- Lower your heels 2 inches.
- Press up so that you are standing on the balls of your feet.
- Repeat 15 to 20 times to complete one set.
- Do two sets to complete the exercise.
Repeat this exercise with your toes pointed outward and then inward to target different parts of your calf muscles.
2. Lunge Pulses
Lunge pulses are a variation of a forward lunge — demonstrated by the American Council on Exercise. Keep your chest up and look straight ahead for proper form.
- Stand with your feet together, arms by your sides.
- Step forward into a lunge with your right foot. Bend your right leg 90 degrees at the knee and extend your left leg behind you, knee bent.
- From this position, pulse up so that your left leg is straight. Bend to complete one pulse.
- Pulse up and down 15 times on each side.
3. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers are an all-over leg strengthener, and the explosive jumping movement strengthens your calves.
- Start in pushup position.
- Bend your right knee and bring your right foot between your hands, foot planted firmly on the floor.
- Keep your hands in push-up position and jump to switch your legs, straightening your right leg out behind you and bringing your left leg up between your knees.
- Repeat as fast as you can for one minute.
4. Jump Rope
Jumping rope isn't just for kids. This activity builds muscle while providing a cardiovascular workout. Start by jumping rope with both feet for one minute. Work your way up to three minutes. Mix up your jump rope workout by trying crossovers and double passes.
5. Calf Stretches
Elongate your calf muscles and help protect against injury with regular stretching. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times. Perform calf stretches in two positions to target each of your calf muscles, as demonstrated by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
- Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height.
- Step one foot back approximately two feet.
- Keeping your back knee straight to target the gastrocnemius muscle, lean in toward the wall until you feel a strong pull along your calf.
- Repeat this stretch with your back knee bent to target your soleus muscle.