Don’t forget to train those calves – here’s how

(MensFitnessFocus.com) In bodybuilding, calf exercises increase the bulk and definition of the upper back and sides of the lower legs. The leg press calf raise is an excellent movement for this purpose.

Ankle joint extension is vital in speed walking, running and jumping activities because it provides the final push in propelling the body forward or upward as needed. This includes jumping in volleyball and basketball, diving, ski jumping, ballet, the high jump and long jump. In running and speed walking, ankle joint extension can create up to 50% of the force needed to propel you forward for maximum speed. That’s why this action is important in sports such as track, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and other activities that involve sprinting.

More explosive sports may build calf muscle definition, but you won’t see an increase in calf muscle mass. If you’re looking for maximum mass development, bodybuilding is the answer.

Leg Press Calf Raise

Sit in an incline leg press machine with your glutes and lower back in firm contact with the seat pads.

Place the balls of your feet a comfortable width apart at the bottom edge of the resistance platform so that your heels are free to move.

Keep your toes pointed straight or slightly out. Your legs should be straight or very slightly bent but never locked.

Grip the machine’s side handles to stabilize your upper body after you release the platform.

Inhale and hold your breath as you extend your feet at a slow to moderate rate of speed through an approximate 30 – 45 degree range of motion. Hold the fully extended position for 1 – 2 seconds to maximize the contraction.

Exhale as you return under control till you feel a slight stretch in your calves. Pause momentarily and then repeat.

To prevent your feet from slipping, wear shoes with good traction and be sure the surface of the resistance platform isn’t slippery. The balls of your feet should stay in firm contact at all times.

Workout Tips

For safety and to ensure an adequate range of motion, do this exercise slowly or at a moderate rate of speed. If you do the movement quickly, you may fully straighten your legs and lose contact with the resistance platform.

The calf raise on a leg press machine is best suited for development of strength and mass through a shortened range of motion. If you fully extend your feet, you’ll increase the possibility of your feet slipping off the platform. Limit your range of motion to ensure that your feet remain in contact at all times.

Avoid the exercise if the machine’s platform or the soles of your shoes are smooth. Your chances of slipping increases greatly and the potential for severe injury can be quite high.

Be sure to keep your legs straight during execution, but don’t lock or hyperextend your knees. This can be potentially dangerous, especially if your legs are slightly bowed when completely extended.

Hold your breath to stabilize your body and maximize your focus on ankle joint action. When you exhale on the return, control the movement at all times. Never completely relax as you could lose control of the platform.

Don’t lower the resistance platform too quickly or bounce in the bottom position. This increases your chance of injury and the possibility of your feet slipping off the platform.

Primary Muscles Involved

The gastrocnemius, a two headed muscle that crosses both the ankle and knee joints and thus has an action at each end, shapes the upper portion of the back of your lower leg. Each head is clearly visible when the muscle is well defined. The soleus is slightly wider than the gastrocnemius and lies mostly underneath it. When well developed, this muscle can be seen to the sides of and slightly below the gastrocnemius.

Collectively, the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are known as the calf muscles or the triceps surae muscle group. At its upper end, the gastrocnemius attaches to the thigh bone (femur); at its upper end, the soleus attaches to the tibia and fibula. They combine into the Achilles tendon at the lower end to attach to the heel bone (calcaneus).

Muscle / Joint Actions

In ankle joint extension, your feet move away from your shins. The gastrocnemius is most powerful when your legs are straight; the soleus is equally powerful regardless of knee position. The straighter your legs and the greater the weight, the more you’ll work your gastrocnemius.

By Sandra Prior, Expert Articles. Image: Bodybuilding.com.

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