Tone and Strengthen your Lower Legs with the Seated Calf Raise
With warmer weather just around the corner, it’s almost time to get out the shorts, sandals, and flip flops again. However, this can’t happen without a little preparation. It is time to make sure those calf muscles are looking their finest. Nothing makes the legs look hotter than a pair of well defined, well-developed calf muscles, male or female. Seated calf raises are one exercise that will help you get those legs you want, and that others don’t mind seeing. Note: This article only addresses tone of the legs and calf muscles, you are on your own with other summer leg preparation aesthetics.
What are Seated Calf Raises?
Photo credit: Steven Vance
Seated calf raises are an isolation exercise (exercise involving one joint movement), that targets the calf muscles, particularly the soleus. The soleus muscle is the smaller of the two calf muscles, and is positioned under the gastrocnemius just above the Achilles tendon. The soleus muscle is often hard to build, and seated calf raises provide the perfect avenue as it puts the knee at the appropriate angle (90 degrees), to fully recruit the soleus muscle. The gastrocnemius serves as a synergistic muscle, providing assistance as necessary.
Seated calf raises can be executed a few different ways by using a seated calf raise machine, using a barbell, or by doing one leg at a time, using dumbbells.
How to Perform Seated Calf Raises
Seated Calf Raise Machine
1. Situate toes on lower portion of platform provided, with heels extending off the back.
-Choose toe position of your choice: forward, in, or out.
2. Place thighs beneath the lever pad and modify setting according to the height of the thigh. (Try to achieve a 90 degree angle to ensure full recruitment of soleus muscle).
3. Raise lever a little by pushing heels up and release the safety bar. This is your starting position.
4. Slowly lower the heels by flexing at the ankle joint, until calves are completely stretched. Inhale during this phase.
5. Elevate the heels by extending at the ankle as high as possible, fully contracting the calf muscles, and hold for a second. Exhale during this phase.
6. Repeat for recommended amount of reps. (This will depend on weight being lifted, but usually higher reps are better, 15-20, even if weight has to be adjusted a little).
Barbell Seated Calf Raises
1. Place a block or platform about 12 inches in front of a flat bench. (May need to adjust distance to ensure a 90 degree angle at the knee).
2. Sit on bench and position balls of feet on platform.
3. Have someone place barbell (with selected weight) on your thighs, about 3 inches above your knee. This is your starting position.
4. Repeat steps 4-6 as described above.
Dumbbell Seated Single Leg Calf Raise
1. Place a block or platform about 12 inches in front of a flat bench.
2. Sit on bench and position ball of left foot on platform. (May need to adjust platform distance to ensure a 90 degree angle at the knee.
3. Position dumbbell of desired weight on thigh, about 3 inches above the knee.
4. Slowly lower the heel by flexing the ankle joint, until calf muscle is adequately stretched. Inhale during this phase.
5. Elevate the heel by extending the ankle, raising up on toes as high as possible, fully contracting the calf muscle and hold for a second. Exhale during this phase.
6. Repeat for recommended amount of reps. (This depends on weight being lifted. Usually higher reps are better, 15-20, even if weight has to be adjusted a little).
7. Switch legs and repeat.
Tips to Remember when Performing Seated Calf Raises
• Warm Up: It is always a good idea to make sure the muscles are nice and warm before beginning.
• Make the calf muscles do the work: Avoid bouncing and using momentum to get the weight up. Too much speed can take away from muscle recruitment as well as limit ability for a full contraction.
• Keep Back Straight/Good Posture: Avoid slouching or bending to avoid injury.
• Avoid Using Too Much Weight: Too much weight can limit flexion and extension. Remember, the key is not necessarily the weight being lifted, but the contraction of the muscle that is essential for calf growth.
Summing It Up
Seated calf raises are an effective way to build the calf muscle, more particularly the hard-to-target soleus muscle. There are a few different ways of achieving the same goal by using machine, barbell, or dumbbells. Be sure to warm up, use good posture, eliminate bouncing, and center your focus, not on weight lifted, but on full contraction of the muscle.
Make seated calf raises a part of your “summer legs preparation” routine, and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is a little style and possibly a tan!
Bhondwe, Ashlesha. (March 2, 2011). Seated Calf Raises. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/seated-calf-raises.html
Campbell, Meg. (June 14, 2011). Exercises for the Soleus Muscle. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/415167-exercises-for-the-soleus-muscle/
Glenn, Lynn. Seated Calf Raise Machine. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.musclemagfitness.com/bodybuilding/exercises/seated-calf-raise-machine.html
Seated Calf Raise. Retrieved on February 9, 2012, from http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/seated-calf-raise