A heel lift, also known as plantar flexion, is performed by the gastrocnemius, soleus and plantaris, which make up the triceps surae muscle group on the back of the lower leg. Strong calf muscles are beneficial for daily activities, such as standing on tip-toe, walking, running and jumping.
There are several heel lift exercises, also called heel raises, to help you train your triceps surae muscle group — described in a December 2014 article published by Foot and Ankle Clinics of North America.
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1. Alternating Heel Raises
The alternating heel raise is an effective warm-up exercise. It offers a gentle means to increase blood flow and work the muscles of the calves.
- Stand with your feet slightly apart with your arms at your sides.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and straighten your back to stand tall.
- Transfer your weight to your left foot and lift your right heel by allowing your right knee to bend slightly. The ball of your right foot should remain in contact with the ground.
- Lower your heel down to the floor and then repeat the movement with your left leg.
- Continue to alternate heels.
2. Seated Heel Lift
The bent knee position of the seated heel lift isolates the soleus muscle.
- Sit tall in a chair with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your legs should be slightly apart.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and straighten your back.
- Maintain this position, and lift your right heel as high as you can while keeping the ball of your foot on the floor.
- Squeeze your calf at the top of the movement and then lower your heel.
- Repeat the movement with your left leg.
Make this exercise more challenging by placing a weight across your working knee.
3. Bridge with Heel Lift Exercises
The bridge with heel lift begins with a traditional bridge, as demonstrated by the American Council on Exercise, with an added heel lift to target the calves.
- Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your arms flat on the ground at your sides.
- Pull your belly button into your spine, and stabilize your core muscles.
- With your back straight, lift your hips off the floor and continue up until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Once you reach the top of the movement, lift your heels so that your weight is in the balls of your feet.
- Hold this position for a count of five, and then lower your heels.
- Repeat the heel lift while maintaining the bridge position.
4. Standing Heel Lift
Standing heel raises, as demonstrated by ExRx.net, works the bulk of the triceps surae muscle group.
- Stand 8 to 12 inches away from a wall with your feet slightly apart and parallel.
- Place your hands on the wall for balance.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and stand tall.
- Slowly lift your heels as high as you can.
- Squeeze your calves at the top of the movement and then lower back to the floor.
Increase the difficulty of the exercise by transferring all your weight to your right leg and then raising your right heel. Repeat the movement with your left leg.