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BIM Lab: Better Calves!

In this BIM Lab article, we are going to be sharing advice on how to do better calf raises, exercises for the soleus, as well as more specific calf raises for happy feet!

First off, better calf raises!

What makes them better? You do. And we’re being serious! How you execute a calf raise will dramatically affect how you target specific muscles and can also help improve foot mechanics. 

The most common mistake people make is that they don’t focus on pushing off or through their big toe. They end up going around them or just keep the pressure on the outside of their feet. 

For best results, we recommend trying to do the following exercises with your shoes off so that you can see what your foot is doing. These two calf raise variations primarily work your gastrocnemius muscle. You can do either variation from the floor or from a deficit – the deficit just allows for strengthening in a greater range of motion. 

 

Exercise 1) Standing Calf Raises 

 

Exercise 2) Single Leg Deficit Calf Raise

COACHING CUES: 

Start slow and controlled on two legs and then progress to one. A good way to bridge this progression is go up on 2 feet, and down only on 1. 

REPS:

  • Aim to complete 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • A greater amount of reps don’t hurt and are actually ideal but you will most likely lose focus as these arguably are not the most exciting to complete. So we will happily take fewer but well executed reps!

 

 

Next up, exercises for the soleus!

Same rules we mentioned above of pushing through your big toe also apply here. If this is a new concept for you then we recommend trying it with your shoes off.  The soleus muscle is deeper than the gastroc and is more dominant when completing plantar flexion with your knees bent.

 

Exercise 1) Wall Squat with Calf Raise 

 

Exercise 2) Seated Deficit Calf Raise 

REPS:

  • Slow controlled reps of 8-12 are also good here.

 

And lastly, here are more specific calf raises for happy feet!

Not that we don’t believe you won’t push through your big toe… but just in case, try these two variations. 

 

Exercise 1) Toes 2-5 Elevated Calf Raise 

COACHING CUES: 

This variation will not only give you better awareness (proprioceptive) of your foot mechanics during plantarflexion (pushing through your big toe is part of that!), but it will also help strengthen your flexor digitorum brevis. The flexor digitorum brevis helps the plantar fascia during your walking gait, specifically propulsion. 

Lastly, this will prevent you from over gripping your toes – which is a common compensation that people do to find foot stability. So, make sure to keep pressure on your big toes while coming evenly up onto your forefoot.

 

Exercise 2) Big Toe Elevated Calf Raise 

COACHING CUES:

This variation will help strengthen the intrinsic muscles of your foot as well. The tibialis posterior is a key player in this drill, which is an important muscle due to its role in maintaining a good arch in your foot. Lastly, this drill can help improve the mobility of your big toe extension, which is extremely important for both walking and running.

REPS:

  • You can complete 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps for both of these toe-elevated calf raise exercises. And, they can both be done regularly!

 


 

We hope you found this series of calf exercises helpful, and if you have any questions or want to know more about anything featured in this post, please feel free to email Andrea at andrea@balancemotion.com. 

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About the author

Andrea Lawson has been a practicing Kinesiologist since 2008 and is the founder of Balance in Motion, a training facility created for people to rehabilitate from injuries, improve athletic performance, and crush their health and fitness goals. She is passionate about providing a space where anyone can step foot in and feel both comfortable and productive no matter the injury, age, or stage they may be at in their fitness journey. With this vision, Andrea has witnessed her clients achieve goals they never thought possible, and gain unmatched levels of confidence in themselves, helping them to Go Beyond Better.

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