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Calf Muscles(13 posts)

Calf MusclesBC
Dec 3, 2001 4:19 AM
How can I streghthen my calf muscles. My standing stregnth is good, but as far as it tightening when I bend my knee down, it is pretty soft. Also I am trying to get rit of a little extra skin there and can't seem to.

re: Calf MusclesJohn-d
Dec 3, 2001 5:13 AM
Well, I am trying to do the same thing. What I have done is to join the local gymn. I go there twice a week and have settled on this routine.

20 minutes on the excercise bike to warm up.
A weight routine that includes using a standing calf m/c, calf curls m/c, and a leg lift m/c. I use these in conjunction with other m/cs for a general work out.

I have been doing this for nearly 6 months and it does seem to be achieving results. I am not large anyway 67kg so I am really only expecting increased strength I never will dramatically increase body size.

An important factor is to increase the food intake to match the increased excersise, otherwise I think muscle size can actually shrink along with the fat useage.

If I have got anything wrong here I am sure someone will point it out, but this seems to be working for me.

Best of luck and keep at it,

re: Calf Musclescyclequip
Dec 3, 2001 5:19 AM
Very difficult muscle group to exercise as it works all the time you walk. Certainly riding a bike will develop and shape calves to a certain extent, but nothing like quads cos the calves work a lot less than you would suspect in a proper pedal stroke. But over time you will develop your calves as they grow to match the resistance required by stronger quads.
It's anatomy not strength!Wayne
Dec 3, 2001 6:09 AM
All the strengthening in the world is not going to fix your problem. Your calf is made up 3 muscles, the soleus, which is deep and originates off the lower leg bone, and the two parts of the gastrocnemius muscle which originate off the back of the femur (thigh) bone. Muscles operate well over a finite length. When you bend your knee, you put the gastrocs on slack because you've decreased the distance between their two attachments on the ankle and leg bones, and they can only poorly produce force at that length (so they feel soft). So most of your ankle extension comes from the soleus when your knee is bent, whereas if your leg was straight ankle extension force would be coming from both the soleus and gastrocs.
re: Calf Muscles - Gastro techniquesBuzzy
Dec 3, 2001 7:23 AM
I am recovering from achilles tendon surgery and am on the bike for fitness and fun. My physical therapist has shown me some exercises to develop calf strength.

Initially, I was using a leg press machine, extending my leg straight and pushing the bar away with my toes. That helps some of the calf.

Then she showed me how this misses a lot of the calf muscle unless the leg is bent. We used a quad machine in a non-orthodox manner. First picture a Quad machine, where you sit, hook your feet below a padded bar, and lift your bent legs forward until they are straight, effecting an exercise on the quads.

Now, get out of the machine, go to the other side (front) of the padded bars, get something like a chair, bench or stool to sit on and lift the padded bar extended with you arms (No weight the first time). Now you are turned 180 degrees facing the machine from the front. After sitting and lifting the padded bar you should be able to place the bar above one or both knees.
At this point you will need an object upon which to place your toes. We used a 4 x 4 board. Try the machine without any weight, lifting the padded bar, placing it upon your bent knee to lift using your lower leg. Also notice that in a relaxed state you might be able to lower your heels for a new stretch.

I am presently pushing about 120 lbs. with one leg at a time. The difficulty is in this position, I must raise the bar first with arm strength to place it on my knees. Start with a lower weight to get the technique first, then also allow a generous 30 second stretch, lowering the heels. My therapist said that most uninformed coaches discourage this stretch. Another version is the calf stretch standing with hands on the wall, one leg extended to the rear. Try this with one or both of the knees slightly bent. The first time I ever did this, I discovered calf muscles in dire need of a good stretch. Since our use of calf muscle on bikes is mostly with the knee bent, not straight, this is right down our alley.

Later, at a gym, I discovered a machine just for this exercise that was mostly unused as few athletes knew of its purpose.

The hills are starting to get lower and I am in higher gears, so it is helping.

The traditional calf machine at the gym, is standing, with heels hung over an edge, with additional weight on the shoulders. This might be attempted using a partially bent knee. I use this to stretch my achilles tendon, standing on one leg, 150 lbs and my body weight 225. As I gain more confidence that it is not going to snap again, I will use more weight on the shoulders.

Great list and a big hello to Brooks, a poster-boy for us recovering achilles rupture victims
Welcome to Wayne's World!Jon
Dec 3, 2001 9:13 AM
Good lesson on anatomy and mechanics here. An additional point or two. In cycling the
calf muscles are not prime movers, but synergists. So the calf strength you get from
cycling itself is specific and sufficient. Second, calf shape and size are determined by
genetics and almost no amount of strength work will significantly alter their shape or size.
Cycling will produce definition in the gastrocnemius however. Third, to add significant
strength to the calf requires an extraordinary degree of effort, focussing mostly on high
repetition sets with excruciatingly heavy weight. Worth the effort? It's up to you.
Welcome to Wayne's World!Wayne
Dec 3, 2001 9:38 AM
Jon is right, or at least it's one of the "facts" in the bodybuilding/weightlifting community, about calf shape and strength being largely genetic. I remember hearing that it's not uncommon even for the giant steroid freaks to get calf implants (I wonder if that's illegal) because they can't get big calves through lifting.
Welcome to Wayne's World!peloton
Dec 3, 2001 3:50 PM
Lots of great info above. I would add that when working your lower legs to try to hit your tibialus anterior too for balance. A lot of people are weak there, and it's an often ignored muscle that can also be hard to work. If your gym has a toe raise machine, kind of like a reverse calf raise, then you know this muscle. It's a great one to hit for athletic balance and movement. Unfortunatly, lots of people and gyms forget about this muscle.

Calfs are hard to get to hypertrophy and get bigger. Lots of it is genetic. High reps work pretty well with the calfs. It's hard to hit the muscle very deep without this. Calfs do recover pretty quickly though, so you can work them pretty hard frequently though.
Welcome to Wayne's World!Buzzy
Dec 3, 2001 1:19 PM
Jon - Thanks for fleshing out my info. I am still on the journey of bringing one calf muscle back to the ability it was prior to the injury. Then the question is, Do I need to have them legs any stronger. I am still an ankler in my pedaling style and get an extra oomph from my calves.
Welcome to Wayne's World!Jon
Dec 3, 2001 5:59 PM

Peleton raised an important point. Leave it to a ski coach to point out the importance of the
anterior tibialis (shin muscle) in balance and athletic movement. Do the exercise he suggested
or ankle flexors using a cable station or surgical tubing. Which leads to another point. Ankle
stability is really important for efficient pedalling. Doing work on a balance board can do as much
or more for your pedal stroke as calf strengthening exercises. Unless you have the technique down
to a fine point, ankling can actually reduce your economy, since ankle movement can dissipate
the force being applied to the pedal. Doing lots of isolated leg pedalling and/or roller work will
greatly enhance your cycling economy.
Glad to hear your recovery is coming along.Brooks
Dec 3, 2001 9:37 AM
As of Thanksgiving, it is full on winter here with several feet of snow. Went skiing Saturday, doing some cross-country as well. Bike gets out on the trainer or the winter bike gets on the road after the snow plows have come through. Playing hoops as well. So the Achilles has not held me back 2.5 years after the injury. I just remember to stretch and warm up before exercise. That calf exercise sounds interesting, I'll try to figure it out on the machine. Good luck to you, Buzzy.

Back to B-BallBuzzy
Dec 3, 2001 1:16 PM
Brooks - B-Ball is back. Great. I still have a ways to go before I attempt another lay-up. But for now, I am doing all that I want to day TODAY!
Good threadzzz
Dec 3, 2001 7:57 PM
I wish there were more threads as informative as this one. This is the kind that makes me keep checking this site. The collective wisdom here is a great resource when it is focused. THANKS