The calf (Latin: sura) is the back portion of the lower leg in human anatomy. The muscles within the calf correspond to the posterior compartment of the leg. The two largest muscles within this compartment are known together as the calf muscle and attach to the heel via the Achilles tendon. Several other, smaller muscles attach to the knee, the ankle, and via long tendons to the toes.
The calf is the back portion of the lower leg
The calf is composed of the muscles of the posterior compartment of the leg: The gastrocnemius and soleus (composing the triceps surae muscle) and the tibialis posterior. The sural nerve provides innervation.
Idiopathic leg cramps are common and typically affect the calf muscles at night. Edema also is common and in many cases idiopathic. In a small study of factory workers in good health, wearing compression garments helped to reduce edema and the pain associated with edema. A small study of runners found that wearing knee-high compression stockings while running significantly improved performance.
The circumference of the calf has been used to estimate selected health risks. In Spain, a study of 22,000 persons 65 or older found that a smaller calf circumference was associated with a higher risk of undernutrition. In France, a study of 6265 persons 65 or older found an inverse correlation between calf circumference and carotid plaques.
Calf augmentation and restoration is available, using a range of prosthesis devices and surgical techniques.
Historically, the absence of calf, meaning a lower leg without a prominent calf muscle, was regarded by some authors as a sign of inferiority: it is well known that monkeys have no calves, and still less do they exist among the lower orders of mammals.
The calf training routine includes a set of simple and effective exercises.
Springs. The exercise is performed by standing straight and slowly rising on toes. The heels should be lifted off the floor as high as possible. The recommended number of sets is 3–4, and the number of repetitions is 30. Also, 100 times in a row can be performed as an alternative. To complicate the exercise, one can use additional weights, such as light dumbbells or bottles with water. If keeping balance is difficult, the weight can be held in one hand, and the other hand can be used to lean against the wall or the back of a chair. Another more complicated variation of this exercise is performed first with one leg, and then with the other leg.
Calf raises on the platform. For this exercise, a step platform is needed. A thick book or just a stair step can be also used for this purpose. The starting position is standing on the edge of a step with the heels hanging down. One should rise on tiptoe and then lower the body down, while stretching the ankle to the limit and touching the heels to the floor.
There is a possibility of maneuver on a step platform: one can vary the position of the toes to target different portions of the calves. The gastrocnemius muscle has 2 heads: medial and lateral. With the feet forward, equal amounts of the medial and lateral heads are targeted. To target the inner portion of the calves (the medial head), the toes should be pointed outwards. The outer calves (the lateral head) are worked out with the toes pointed inwards.
The more complicated option of this exercise implies performing the calf raises with the full range of motion, holding the weight in one hand and leaning against the wall with the other hand for balance.
Tiptoe walking. This is an easy exercise that involves rising up on tiptoes and walking with small steps. One should avoid bending the knees.
Stair walking. Walking up and down the stairs is a good way to work out the calf muscles. 15–30 minutes are enough for this kind of activity.
Jumping rope. This exercise is usually performed by gymnasts and boxers. It is important to jump until the calf muscles burn.
Weighted jumps. This exercise greatly works the calves and is performed by jumping out of a squat position while holding a couple of dumbbells in hands.
Weighted Squats. The squats are done with the dumbbells in hands until the leg muscles burn.
Seated calf raises. The soleus muscle that makes up three quarters of the lower leg muscles is targeted only in the seated position. The exercises that are performed in a standing position target the outer portion of the calf, and this is just a quarter of its overall volume.
This variation of calf raises can be done both in the gym by using an exercise machine, and at home by sitting on a chair with some weight on the knees. The exercise should be performed in a slow pace.
Pistol squat. This exercise is suitable for advanced athletes, because it is difficult to perform. One should hold onto something with a hand, extend one of the legs forward, and squat on the other leg as many times as possible.
Jogging. Jogging is a good way to work out the calves very fast.
Cycling, skiing, tennis, roller skating, ice skating. Each of these kinds of sports is "calf-forming" and yields an amazing result for leg muscles. Unlike the previous exercises, these are outdoor activities.
The calf exercises should be performed every 3–4 days. They can be alternated and interchanged to avoid getting used to the load.
General Workout Tips
Before any serious activity, including doing calf-building exercises, the muscles and joints should be properly warmed up.
Aerobic exercises should be performed at the beginning of a workout. A workout should end with calf strengthening exercises to stimulate their growth, and stretching that involves taking a wide step backward, placing the heel on the floor, and bending the torso forward. Each leg should be stretched for 10–20 seconds.
The calf exercises should be performed with maximum range of motion.
The load should be changed regularly. Getting used to the load can lower the effectiveness of workouts, therefore, diversifying the exercises is a good way to keep progressing.
The calves should be worked out two or three times a week in order for the muscles to recover.
The muscle load during calf raises can be increased by shifting the body weight to the toes.
The calf-building exercises can be complicated by pausing for five counts at the top of the rise.
One should avoid overtraining to prevent cramps.
The calf muscles slowly respond to the physical load and require more time to work them out compared to other body muscles. The stable results can be achieved due to hard work.
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