Had a good run? Thank your calves. Whenever you hit the road, the posterior muscles of the lower legs work double-time to power your runs and protect your ankles, explains Raj Hathiramani, certified running coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City.
'Your gastrocnemius, which runs from behind your knee to the lower half of your leg, allows for quick and explosive movement. Your soleus, which runs from the outer side of the back of your knee to the heel, keeps your ankle stable and secure,' he tells Runner’s World.
'Your calves also help guide your running stride by enabling your knees to bend and your heels to lift,' Hathiramani says. 'As a result, strong calves allow you to improve both your stride length and stride rate, and, therefore, run faster.'
Created by Hathiramani, this five-move workout circuit incorporates strength, mobility, and plyometrics work that look basic but will light up your calves after just one round.
How to do it: Perform each exercise below for the number of reps listed, resting for 30 seconds between exercises. Repeat the full circuit a total of 3 times.
Each move is demonstrated by Hathiramani in the video above so you can master the proper form. You will need a set of medium dumbbells. An exercise mat is optional.
Isometric Calf Raise
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms at sides (for an added challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand). Engage your abs for stability and roll up onto the balls of your feet, lifting both heels off the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position. Complete 10 reps.
Farmer’s Walk on Toes
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and, holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang at your sides. Engage your core and keep your chest up and shoulders back. Roll up onto the balls of your feet and take a few small steps forward, then a few small steps back. Continue to walk back and forth for 60 seconds.
Downward Dog With Foot Pedal
Start standing, then bend over to touch the ground. Walk hands out into a high plank position. Spread fingers wide and press palms into ground. Raise hips back into an inverted V position, keeping your legs straight. Bend the right knee slightly as you press into left toes to stretch left calf. Pushing into right toes, straighten right knee to stretch right calf as you bend left knee slightly. Continue to alternately bend and straighten the knees, pedaling the feet for a total of 20 reps per side.
Stand with feet just wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out, and clasp hands at chest for balance. Send hips back and bend at knees to lower down as far as possible with chest lifted. You can swing your arms back for momentum. Press through heels back up to explode up, jumping vertically in the air. Land softly and immediately send hips back down into a squat. Complete 20 reps.
Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Simultaneously swing your arms out to the sides and overhead as you jump your feet wider than hip-width apart. Immediately jump your feet back together, swinging your arms back down to your sides. This is 1 rep. Complete 20 reps, staying on the balls of your feet at all times.
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