Imagine a human pretzel wrapped up like a rubber band, a gymnast performing a magnificent acrobatic feat. I was a bit of an acrobat myself. We used to call it being “double-jointed,” but there’s definitely nothing double about my joints or most anyone else’s for that matter. If I were to try even a back-bend today, I would surely risk tears and rips at every turn and twist. I can’t imagine being that pretzel today, especially at the risk of such severe injury. I would surely end up snapping like a breaking rubber band, like a tendon can snap when ill-prepared or stretched too far too fast.
Prevention is half the battle, and the following can mean the difference between injury and healthy athletic muscle tone:
- Warm-up and stretch beforehand
- Stretch and walk it off after a work-out – Cool down!
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a balanced nutritious diet
- Get 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep to allow your body to fully recover
Muscle strains, tears, ruptures and even back problems can occur when the calves are not in peak condition. It’s up to you to prevent injuries. Hence, 10 of the best calf strengthening exercises are provided below.
The First and Best in Unbeatable Calf Injury Prevention
Calf raises are extremely effective for calf strengthening. There are several calf exercises, each prevent injuries and each provide physiological benefit.
1. Calf raises from a sitting position will enhance flexibility and strength. Start from a seated position in a chair with feet flat on the floor. Lift your heels from the ground as high as possible while pressing your toes deeply into the floor. Hold the position for at least 5 seconds and repeat 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
2. Raises from a standing position are calf strengthening. By pushing against the forces of gravity this exercise facilitates calf strengthening. Start from a standing position with feet shoulder distance apart and flat on the ground. Support yourself for balance with a chair or the wall. Raise up on your toes as high as possible and hold for 5 seconds, increasing to 10 seconds over time. Repeat 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
3. Eccentric calf raises improve your range of motion, circulation, mobility and prevent injuries. Use a step or something that will allow the heel to fall below a parallel level. Also your hands can be supported by a wall, a high chair or the equivalent. Start with one foot at a time, bending the left leg, for example, so that it is not touching down. The right foot is placed with toe on the step and heel off the back end. Raise the heel as high as possible and hold at the highest point for 5 seconds. Lower the heel to below the step level and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat this for 3 sets, each with 10 to 12 repetitions.
Note: Gradually, overtime, you should introduce weights as part of your calf raise exercises. Then, increase the weight as you become accustomed to the existing weight.
Stretch, Flex, Here’s How to Keep’em Limber
There is no way to minimize the importance of stretching, and not just for calf strengthening or preventing injuries, although that too is vital. Leg exercises, especially stretching, limber you up and allow you to engage in running-related sports.
4. Foot pumps allow the calf muscle to get warmed-up, to get blood pushing through, improving circulation. Lie flat on your back, preferably on a bed or the equivalent, with legs extended off the edge of the bed. Start by pointing your toes away from you, with all you might. Hold 5 seconds. Then bend at the ankle bringing your toes all the way in toward you. You should be able to feel the stretch on your Achilles going all the way up to your hamstring. Once again, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat the process 10 times. Repeat completing 3 sets of 10 repetitions, resting briefly between sets.
5. From a sitting position on a mat, extend one leg off the end from the ankle. The foot will then be below the mat level. Place the resistance band around the ball of the foot holding each end of the band with your hands. Pull the band towards your body with your hands, creating tension and resistance. Start with your foot at a right angle from your leg and toes facing up in a relaxed position. Then, point your toes, extending the foot forward. You should feel significantly more tension and stress on the leg muscle. Hold 5 seconds then return to the starting position. Switch to the other leg. Perform at least 5 times on each leg. Over time you should be able to increase the tension of the band by pulling it tighter.
6. A second variation is to perform this same exercise from a sitting position in a chair. Extend one leg, once again with band around the ball of the foot and foot relaxed. By pushing your toes downward, pointing your toes, you are creating resistance. Hold the position for 5 seconds and slowly return to the relaxed posture. Repeat on your other foot, 5 to 10 times on each foot.
7. Calf rolls are an excellent way to stretch the leg muscle and prevent injuries. A foam or plastic roll is used to perform the exercise. It is performed while sitting on the floor. Keep your arms extended behind you, with palms flat on the floor for support, and back slightly arched. With both legs atop the roller and your butt off the floor, roll from knee to ankle and then from ankle to knee.
More Calf Exercises
Jumping in general offers terrific benefit to the leg muscles. It is calf strengthening and excellent for the cardiovascular system.
8. Jumping on a step provides even greater benefit and challenge, greater calf strengthening. Stand with both feet flat on the floor in front of the step. You will jump onto the step and then back. Start by pushing off from your toes and then land on your toes. Perform this 10 times then rest. Repeat 3 sets for 10 repetitions.
An excellent option as you gain proficiency is to add dumbbells, one in each hand while performing the step jumps. Over time use heavier and heavier dumbbells.
9. The Donkey Kick is performed with the resistance band. It is excellent for calf strengthening and toning. Begin in doggie position on all fours with arms and legs shoulder width apart and palms flat on the floor. Secure the band around one foot and the other end held by the hands. Start by raising the tied foot up and back, then return to the starting position. Perform the exercise 10 to 15 times and then switch to the other leg.
10. The plyometric jump-squat is incredibly beneficial to the legs in particular. It is a calf strengthening exercise and the stronger the calf and leg muscles the better to help prevent injuries. The starting position is legs bent in a squatting posture, arms extended straight out, feet shoulder width apart and head straight. You want to jump as high as you can by exploding up in one motion and landing gently and softly on your heels. Perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, resting briefly in between sets.
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