Well-defined calf muscles are characterized by a pronounced "V" shape on the back of the lower legs. Isometric exercise can help you develop shapely calves. This requires targeting both calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus, through movements that involve no range of motion at a joint. Although isometric calf raises are simple to perform, attention to form and isometric movement is required for best results.
The calves function to plantar flex the foot. This takes place when you point your toes downward and raise your heels in the air. You need to focus on plantar flexion with isometric calf raises.
A basic calf raise is performed by placing your feet about hip-width apart, rising up high onto your tiptoes and lowering yourself back down. An exercise that involves a lengthening and shortening of a muscle like this is called isotonic. To do an isometric exercise, simply rise up onto your tiptoes and hold the position. The goal is to hold it long enough to feel fatigue set in. If you are new to exercise, this might only take five to 10 seconds. The goal is to progressively hold your contractions longer as you get into better shape.
Holding the high position of a calf raise only strengthens the calves at this particular point. The goal is to do raises with your heels elevated at different heights. This will ensure that you maximize your muscle recruitment. For example, perform them with your heels completely elevated, three-quarters elevated, half elevated and one-quarter elevated. Take a rest break in between each hold, then start from the top again.
Adding resistance to the exercise will cause you to work your calves harder and it will promote more progress. The easiest way to increase your resistance is by holding a weighted barbell across your upper back or holding dumbbells at your sides. You also have the option of doing each side independently. This will automatically cause more resistance, even without weights. You might need to place one hand on a wall or table for balance when doing single-leg calf raises.
When you do calf raises from a standing position, a brunt of the emphasis goes to the gastrocnemius. To shift the focus to the soleus, you need to bend your knees. Your best bet is to sit in a chair and lift your heels off the floor. Being that you do not have much resistance, hold a set of dumbbells vertically on your thighs. You also have the option of using a seated calf-raise machine. Simply push up against the padded support and hold in several positions.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.