What Are The Best Exercises For Lower Leg Muscles? Find Out What You Need To Know Here!
We all want nice abs, wide shoulders, huge arms, and massive chests. However, all of these are nothing and will look disproportionate without balanced calves. So, want to know what are the best exercises for lower leg muscles? The answer is just waiting for you!
Here, let’s focus on the commonly neglected lower leg muscles, or the calves, instead of the usual upper body and legs. Gorgeous legs are just the thing to complete your magnificent muscular physique. You don’t wanna end up looking like Johnny Bravo! (sorry, Johnny.)
Don’t worry; lower leg muscles are not very hard to work on. Most of the exercises here are also practically painless. Therefore, there’s no reason for you not to train your calves, so let’s get started.
The Lower Leg Muscles
First, let’s try to understand the anatomy of your lower leg muscles to choose and develop the appropriate workout for them.
The lower leg muscles are composed of three major muscle groups: the gastrocnemius, soleus and tibialis anterior.
The gastrocnemius is the largest section of the lower legs, comprised of the medial and lateral heads. Commonly called the ‘calves’, it’s the most obvious and most worked out muscles in the lower legs.
The gastrocnemius is most prominent when standing up. Try standing up and raising your toes off the ground. Do you feel and see the large muscles at the back of your legs contract? Those are your medial and lateral heads, or, collectively, your gastrocnemius.
Next is the soleus. It allows your body to stand up from a seating position. In bodybuilding, it is known to widen the back of your lower legs. It is located directly underneath the gastrocnemius.
The soleus can be felt the most while sitting down. Sit down and wrap your hands around the back of your calf close to your heel. Then, raise your leg on your toes, as if standing on a tiptoe. In this position, the soleus bears the most weight, and the gastrocnemius is more or less inactive.
Lastly, we have the tibialis anterior, or anterior tibialis, whichever way you want to say it. It occupies a large area of the front lower legs. That’s why it’s absurd to think that many bodybuilders and weightlifters do not train this muscle at all!
The tibialis anterior functions for when you’re walking up a slope or doing any activity where the toes are higher than the heels. If well developed, it provides stability during certain exercises and makes the lower legs look more muscular.
What Are The Best Exercises For Lower Leg Muscles
Now, you’re ready to learn the best exercises for lower leg muscles. Here are some of them:
1. Seated Calf Raise
This exercise works on the soleus. To do seated calf raises, you can use the smith machine; the seated calf raise machine or a flat bench and weights.
If you’re using a machine, sit on it and put your toes on the bottom platform, extending your heels. Position your lower thighs underneath the lever pad and adjust this according to your thighs’ height. Rest your hands onto the lever pad to avoid slipping.
Slightly push your heels upward to lift the lever and let go of the safety bar. This is your starting position. Next, slowly let your heels down by bending the ankles so that the calves are extended fully. Do this while breathing in.
Stretch your heels and ankles as high as you can while flexing your calves and breathing out. Hold this position for a moment then go back to your initial position.
If you’re using a flat bench, place a block around 12 inches in front of the bench. Sit on the bench and place the balls of your feet on the block.
Then, have someone place a barbell on your upper thighs about 3 inches from the knees and hold it in place. You can also use place a dumbbell on each of your thighs. This will be the starting position.
Next, raise your toes as high as you can and stretch your calves as far as possible. Do this while breathing out. After the contraction, slowly revert to your starting position. Repeat doing this for the recommended amount of reps.
2. Reverse Calf Raise
The reverse calf raise is for the tibialis anterior. First, place your heels on a calf block, or a platform with the balls of your feet extended off it. Point your toes forward with a shoulder width stance. Grasp on the support with your hand for balance.
Then, pull the tip of your toes up towards your body as far as you can. While doing so, flex your calves and breathe out. Keep your knees and your hips steadily straight during the exercise. Hold this position for a while before going back down.
Next, carefully go back to the starting position by lowering the balls of your feet and toes while breathing in. You can also extend your feet until your toes are pointing downward. Repeat this for the recommended amount of repetitions.
For variations, you can place a dumbbell in between your feet for resistance. You can also do this exercise with a doorstep, using the doorframe for balance. Also, putting your heels backward will emphasize the higher calf while adjusting them forward will target the lower calf.
3. Standing Calf Raise
The standing calf raise works for the gastrocnemius. Start by standing upright while holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Place the ball of your foot on a platform about 2-3 inches tall with heels extended off, touching the floor.
Then, raise your heels by contracting your calves and hold this for a moment as you exhale. Point your toes either straight forward, inwards or outwards to emphasize all parts equally, the outer head or the inner head, respectively.
As you take in a breath, slowly go back to the starting position by lowering your heels to the floor. Repeat this for the recommended amount of times.
For all of these first three exercises, do three sets of 15 repetitions on a day and 6 repetitions with weights on a different day of the week. More repetitions aim for growth while fewer repetitions with heavier weights help enhance strength.
Aside from many types of calf raises such as the ones I mentioned, there are also other exercises for the lower leg muscles. Examples are box jumps, jumping rope, and the recumbent bike which also work up the thigh muscles.
To ensure your lower leg development, consume the right amount of calories and protein for muscle build up. Also, try to find out the best day to which you can incorporate lower leg workouts in your routine.
Lastly, avoid working out your calves or lower leg muscles muscles for more than twenty minutes per set to guarantee your gain after each set.