The Americans can be so cheesy! Its rather wonderful. But Lucy Gable gives a beautiful demo of the apparently simple exercise, calf raises. She shows first rate control of movement, moving smoothly up and down at about a 2-0-2-0 tempo and that means lowering the heels for 2 seconds then raising them for 2 seconds. Even more impressive is her 1 legged, free standing calf raise. And here is why.
- Keep the knees straight to keep the exercise in the big calf muscle, satisfyingly called the gastrocnemius.
- Keep the weight evenly distributed over the forefoot, pressing strongly through the balls of the feet. It will help to spread out the toes.
- Concentrate on keeping the weight evenly spread throughout the exercise – frequently it will want to drift to the outside or the inside of the forefoot. After all, we want to look neither like a sailor nor a knock-kneed ninny.
- Go through a full range of movement. All the way down and all the way up. It is natural to want to make the exercise harder as soon as possible – by holding dumbbells and so on and this is good, but not if form is lost.
- Start by holding on to something until the exercise can be performed perfectly.
- How many reps? For this muscle, then 12 – 15 is better than the 20-30 recommended. The other calf muscle that underlies the gastroc, called the soleus, needs higher reps because of its nature.
- There are strong arguments for always holding on to something, or being in someway supported- less energy is going into balancing, so we can work harder. On the negative side, the calves help us balance (although it is the deeper calf muscle referred to above that is principle in this), so strengthening them whilst holding on does not help the balance element. Maybe the best answer is to vary between workouts – sometimes go for pure strength, so reduced wobbliness, and sometimes for the balance.
- If trying to strengthen the calves, the best speed of movement is to lower the heels more slowly than raising them because the body is stronger when lowering a weight, and so we can shift more weight. And we can also introduce a 1 second pause at the top of the movement.
- When the toes forwards version is mastered, it is a good idea to turn the toes outwards for variation and good strength gains.