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How to tone: Your calves

Toned, shapely calf muscles look great whether you’re wearing shorts, a skirt or capris. These all-important muscles often take a back seat to glutes and legs in workout routines, yet you probably use them more than you think. Walking, jumping, pedaling a bicycle and even pressing the accelerator of your car all require calf action. Toning your calves, however, requires resistance beyond these normal daily activities if you want to see results. In other words, you need to feel the burn to see changes — and it’s worth it. Here are the best calf exercises for toned lower legs.

Woman jumping rope

Anatomy of the calf

First, a quick anatomy lesson: Two muscles make up your calves, the gastrocnemius (the meaty upper portion of your calf) and soleus (a deeper, smaller muscle). To get the most shape and tone for your buck, use a combination of lower leg exercises. Hitting the muscles from different angles works a variety of muscle fibers and gives you a complete approach.

Try the follow calf-shaping moves two to three times a week for firmer calves in approximately four weeks.

Standing calf raise

Primarily works the gastrocnemius

Start position: Stand facing a wall and step approximately two feet away. Place your hands against the wall in a push-up position, leaning your body in toward the wall in a straight line and keeping heels on the ground (barefoot or wearing sneakers). You should feel a stretch throughout your calves.

Movement: Raise up onto the balls of your feet; remain leaning toward the wall. Pause and slowly lower back down.

Repeat 15 times.

Calf raises on a step

Primarily works the gastrocnemius

Start position: Stand on the balls of your feet on the bottom step of a staircase, holding onto a wall or railing for balance.

Movement: Slowly lower your heels toward the floor, feeling the muscles stretch, and then slowly raise up onto the balls of your feet. Pause and lower back down.

Repeat 15 times.

For a greater challenge, bring one foot behind the opposite ankle and use the same form for one-legged calf raises.

Seated calf raises

Primarily works the soleus

Start position: Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on the floor. Place a dumbbell in each hand (10 pounds or heavier; remember, your calves are strong enough to move your entire body’s weight around all day) and hold one on top of each knee.

Movement: Slowly squeeze your calf muscles as you raise up onto the balls of your feet (avoid bouncing up and down). Pause and slowly lower back down, without resting.

Repeat 15 or more times.

Bonus calf-toning tips

Jump rope: Jumping rope requires standing on your toes, giving calf muscles a good workout. Plus, jumping for 30 minutes burns approximately 350 calories.

Walk up stairs: To emphasize calf muscles, focus on squeezing them as you walk up every stair. Carry a dumbbell to increase the resistance.

More ways to get toned legs:

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