Several different calf strengthening exercises can help to shape and tone the lower legs. Calf raises are relatively easy, can lengthen and build muscle at the same time, and can be done sitting, standing, or bending over. Stretching the calf muscles while using resistance is one of the best calf strengthening exercises for those who do not want to build up too much visible muscle. Leg presses, on the other hand, work well for those who want to amplify this area of their body.
To do a sitting calf raise, sit on a solid surface with the feet flat on the floor. Keeping the knees parallel to the ground, slowly lift the heel of both feet or one foot, keeping the toes pressed firmly into the floor. For a more intense workout, this can be performed while sitting on an exercises ball. Doing this helps to keep the rest of the muscles in the body active, ideal for burning slightly more calories. To increase resistance, one can hold weights in both hands, keeping them resting on the knees.
A standing calf raise uses one’s own body weight to increase resistance. To perform these calf strengthening exercises, stand with the feet slightly apart and slowly raise up the heels, keeping the toes flat on the floor. For a more intense exercise, do only one foot at a time, keeping the inactive foot flat on the ground or held up slightly above the ground.
Bending calf raises provide more of a stretch for the muscles than sitting or standing. This exercise is performed in the same manner as the others, except that the hands are placed against a wall, on a low table, or on a workout bench. Pushing the upper body forward while performing these calf strengthening exercises increases the resistance in the muscles.
When stretching is added to strength training, it helps to elongate the muscles, preventing them from becoming too prominent while still toning the lower legs. One of the most popular strength training exercises for this utilizes a resistance band. The end of the band is hooked over one foot, and the rest of the band is wrapped around the body while lying down, making sure that the band is taut. Then, the foot is flexed forwards, pushing the band and stretching the calf while building muscle.
For building up visible calf muscles, leg presses are one of the ideal calf strengthening exercises. Using a leg press machine, lie down at the base of the machine and place the feet on either pedal. Push up with one foot and then with the other, focusing on using the calf rather than the entire leg. The amount of weight can be changed on the machine, enabling a person to build up his or her strength-training workout.