There are so many muscles in the legs that it’s hard to find time to focus on them all. As runners, it’s easy to spend so much time focusing on the main “running” muscles – our quads and glutes – that we run out of time for the rest. However, in doing so we are missing out on one of our biggest potentials for power on the run: calf strength.
Our calves are powerful muscles, yet they are often neglected by runners. As we run, our calves are working with each step. They propel us forward, protect our achilles from injury and make it possible to run in the first place.
Adding calf strengthening exercises to your weekly routine doesn’t take a lot of time or equipment. Completing just a few calf exercises at home can drastically improve your calf strength and power with each step on the run.
These bodyweight exercises will build your calf muscles right at home.
Add each of these calf strengthening exercises to your post-run routine, or combine all 6 to form a single calf workout. Either way, you’ll quickly reap the benefits of these simple calf exercises.
6 Calf Strengthening Exercises for Runners
As arguably the most common calf exercise, calf raises are a great exercise to add to your regular strength routine. Calf raises are a simple exercise that really target those calf muscles.
It’s simple enough, too – stand up straight with both feet flat on the floor. Simply rise up on to your toes, and then lower back to a flat foot position.
To accentuate the exercise, stand on the edge of a step so that your heels are in the air. Rise up to your toes, but this time when you lower back down, let your heels drop down below the edge of the step. This increases your range of motion and the effort required by your calves to rise on to your toes.
Another simple yet effective exercise. Ankle hops combine the raising motion from calf raises with a jump, taking this exercise one step further by making it plyometric. Plyometric exercises require even more muscles for stabilization as you land after each jump.
To complete ankle hops, all you’ll need to do is stand straight with both feet flat on the floor (just like you did at the start of the calf raises). Next, push off the floor using just your ankles and calves – without bending your knees and lowering into a squat. You’ll jump up slightly into the air before landing with both feet flat on the floor.
Touch and Hop
This simple exercise targets the lower leg and calf muscles, while incorporating balance. Many muscles are utilized throughout this exercise to stabilize the body and keep it level.
To complete a touch and hop, begin in a standing position. Bending at the waist, extend your right leg behind you as you reach towards the floor with your left finger tips. Establish your balance in this position, before hopping back up to a standing position. As you hop, swing your right leg out to the front, extending it straight in front of you.
Establishing balance is key in the exercise. It is important to avoid moving on to the next step until you are fully stabilized and balanced. After completing the exercise the first time, switch legs so you are balancing on the opposite.
Plie Squat and Calf Raise
This move is a combination of two exercises: a plie squat and a calf raise. It isolates the calves while they are already engaged, increasing the challenge of a typical calf raise.
From a standing position, spread your feet apart until they wider than shoulder width. Bend down into a squat by sending your hips back and keeping your knees from wobbling side to side. Once you are lowered into a squat, raise up onto your toes and then lower back to a flat foot.
You’ll want to complete all of the calf raises in the squatting position before returning to standing. This exercise will quickly burn out those calf muscles, all the while working your quads and glutes as they maintain the squat.
Inverted V Plank
You can’t go wrong with this exercise. While the inverted V plank targets calf muscles, it also works the core, arms, shoulders and lower body. It is a great full body exercise for all around strength benefits.
To complete the inverted V plank, lower down into a straight arm plank position. Extend your arms down to reach the floor, and balance on your toes and hands – keeping your body as straight as possible. Be careful not to let your shoulders arch or hips sag in this position. From the plank, raise your glutes in the air, straightening your arms and legs so your body forms and inverted V (similar to downward dog).
Complete multiple repetitions of this exercise before lowering yourself completely to the floor or taking a break. After completing the V position, lower your body back down to a plank, and complete the next repetition.
This exercise targets many muscles throughout the legs, but can be adapted to bring more focus to the calves and lower leg muscles. To target the calves specifically, place only the front half of your foot on the step as you step up. This requires your calves to stabilize the body as you move up onto the step.
To complete a step up, simply find a stair or step that is a few inches off the ground. Place the front half of one foot on the step, leaving your heel in the air and off the step. Push off your grounded foot to bring your body up to balance on the step. Swing your grounded leg up towards your chest as you balance on the front half of the foot on the step.
Calf strength is essential for runners, and yet so many of us neglect spending time on these muscles. If you’re hoping to improve your running, reduce the effort it takes with each step, and protect yourself from injury – dedicating time to calf strengthening exercises is a simple solution.
Running requires so much more than just actually running – but staying strong and healthy on the run is worth it. With efficiency as our goal, this calf workout will be sure to give you maximum benefits in minimum time.
More strengthen workouts:
- Essential Strength Training Exercises for Runners
- 10 Glute Activation and Strengthening Exercises
- 30 Day Strength Training Challenge for Runners
- Stability Ball Workout for Full Body Strength