Dancers are recognized for their toned, sleek calf muscles. You can achieve the same look with exercises geared toward your unique strength level. Your calves consist of two muscles -- the gastrocnemius and soleus. By performing targeted exercises with lightweight dumbbells or just your body weight, you can strengthen these muscles and add definition to your lower legs. There's no reason not to do these exercises, since they can be done right at home.
Standing Calf Raise
Standing calf raises isolate the calf muscles and are easily done at home. Start with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips for stability. Then contract your calf muscles to lift your heels off the floor. Rise up on the balls of your feet until you reach the peak of your toes. Hold this position for five seconds, then lower to your starting position. Try different foot positions, such as feet turned in or out, to work different areas of your calves. Repeat the exercise 20 times, and then rest for 30 seconds before repeating two more sets.
The ankle flexion exercise mirrors a dancer's warm-up and helps strengthen your calf and shin muscles. Start by looping a resistance band around a sturdy piece of furniture and tying the band securely. Loop the band over the top of your left foot. With your leg extended and left foot flexed, inch your body back to create resistance in the band. Release the stretch by pointing your foot, then flex the foot again. Repeat the exercise 20 times on the left foot and repeat on the right leg.
Because you use your calves to push off and jump, stick jumps can help you tone the calves. Begin with your toes facing forward and your feet just a few inches apart. Bend your knees slightly and jump off the ground as high as you can. Keep the knees soft as you land on your toes first, then the balls of your feet. Try not to let the heels touch the ground as you repeat the jump for 25 repetitions. Take a 30-second break, then repeat the exercise.
Seated Calf Raises
You don’t have to always stand upright to develop calf muscles. Seated calf raises can also do the trick. Start seated in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your thighs for added resistance and lean slightly forward as you use your calf muscles to lift the heels off the ground. When you reach the balls of your feet, hold the position for five seconds, then lower your heels to the ground. Repeat the exercise 20 times for toned calves. As you gain in strength, repeat for one to two sets.
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