The calf muscles can often be neglected as people mainly seek to bulk up the thigh muscles in order to obtain stronger, more shapely legs. But it is important to remember that ALL fitness experts will advise that poorly developed calves, or overly large calves, can drastically affect your performance during exercise or sporting activities.
"Although the calves are not the most powerful muscle group in the body, they are used constantly," says Sue Thompson, an exercise physiologist and fitness consultant, based in America.
In most activities which involve a forward trajectory or body movement, it is often the calf muscles that will inevitably be working the hardest. They basically help to keep the body from falling forward. This is always a good thing, particularly when trying to impress a member of the opposite sex who just happens to be passing by!!
The calf muscles, which are located on the back of the lower leg (you probably already knew that, right?), are made up of two major muscle groups – the gastrocnemius and the soleus, as described in a previous article on the How to get smaller calves site.
The gastrocnemius, which can be seen to visibly contract when a person stands on tiptoe or places most of the weight on the front of their feet, starts from just behind the knee and makes up the mainly visible portion of the calf.
The soleus, which sits directly under the gastrocnemius, helps to form the Achilles tendon, and therefore the heel.
Another problem with underdeveloped, or weak calf muscles is that they can contribute massively to a very common exercise or workout complaint – leg cramps, which can be incredibly painful to those who suffer these cramps on a regular basis.
Those who are deficient in potassium – a mineral which is heavily involved in the contraction of muscles – or those who neglect to drink the necessary volume of fluids during workouts/exercise are more likely than others to suffer from leg cramps, particularly in the calf muscles.
To strengthen and develop the gastrocnemius further, Thompson recommends slowly rising up on the toes or ball of the foot while standing – and repeating this several times per day, until you can visibly see the calf muscle toning and slimming. If done properly, you COULD start to see the results of these exercises within as little as two weeks.
For the soleus, just undertake the same toe lift exercises, but this time remain seated at all times. This exercises the soleus, but also allows the gastrocnemius to relax throughout the duration of the exercise, giving it the necessary time to repair itself from previous workouts.
Even though the aim of the How to get smaller calves site is to ultimately slim, tone and reduce the visible appearance of our calf muscles, it is important to ensure that we are undertaking all necessary precautions to keep the calf muscles in optimal shape and condition.
This is why I have tried to post a few articles around the science of the calf muscles, the importance of stretching and post-workout treatment/massage of the calves, and the need to ensure that they are exercised just as much as other major leg muscles.