Though her enviable sense of fashion tends to command the spotlight, the Duchess of Cambridge’s long, lean legs caught media attention last month when she attended a charity polo match and was photographed running gracefully in towering heels with her dog Lupo.
Since then we’ve been on a mission to find the best leg exercises for shapely calves. We turned to Hollywood fitness trainer Mike Donavanik, who shares this three-move workout that tones and strengthens the entire body but is specifically designed for sexy Kate Middleton-esque calves.
Meet Mike Donavanik
Mike Donavanik is among the leading personal trainers in the fitness industry today. Based in Los Angeles, he counts among his clients celebrities, athletes, executives, everyday people and even a few of Hollywood’s top trainers. Donavanik is also the creator of Extreme Burn: Total Body Interval Training and Extreme Burn: Metabolic Conditioning DVDs. As a respected fitness expert and personal trainer, Donavanik has been featured in Town & Country, Fitness, Self, Reader’s Digest, Daily Candy, Vital Juice, and more. Mike is also a regular fitness contributor to the Los Angeles Times as well as Perez Hilton’s FitPerez.
Why you need strong, sexy calves
You strive for toned arms, six-pack abs, perky glutes and thin thighs, but how often do you target your calves during a workout? Though a whittled waist is top priority when summer bathing suit arrives, your calves are equally important, according to Donavanik. “While nicely toned calf muscles make you look sexier, they also play a vital role in everyday life,” the fitness expert explains. “We use our calves every day and rely on them heavily in our daily activities: walking, running, jogging, jumping, going up stairs and even driving.” Think about it: Calves help support the weight of your entire body, they keep your ankles stable, assist in holding up your arches and are critical for everyday functions and athletic performance.
Workout for long, lean calves
Donavanik is in the business of creating workouts that are not only effective but also efficient. The following three exercises are compound moves that tone and target your entire body but have a special emphasis on developing shapely calves. Each of these exercises requires dumbbells. We suggest starting with a lighter weight than you normally use since incorporating calf exercises into your upper-body workout will change your center of gravity. In addition, you’ll be doing high-rep sets for this workout. “The calf muscles respond best to higher-volume work (more reps and sets),” says Donavanik.
Calf raise with alternating shoulder raise
Start position: Holding a dumbbell in each hand with feet shoulder-width apart, bring your left hand in front of your hip and the right hand to the outside of the hip.
Movement: Rise onto your toes while lifting your arms — left arm goes into a front raise while your right arm goes into a lateral raise. Briefly hold at the very top of the movement and contract your calves as tightly as possible. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and switch hand positions (left hand out to the side, right hand in front), then continue with the exercise.
Reps/sets: Perform 20 to 24 reps total/three sets
Isometric calf raise with sumo squat press
Start position: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in. Bend your elbows, holding weights at about collarbone level. Position your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Raise your heels and keep your calves in an isometric contraction throughout the entire exercise.
Movement: Bend your knees and lower yourself into a sumo squat so that your thighs are parallel with the floor. Drive up from the lower position and push the weights overhead into a shoulder press. Repeat the movement.
Reps/sets: Perform 15 to 20 repetitions/three sets
Single-leg calf raise with overhead extensions
Start position: Stand in front of a chair, bench, couch or other elevated surface. Keeping your right foot on the ground, plant your left foot on the elevated surface. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and raise your arms into an overhead tricep position, bending your elbows.
Movement: Drive up onto the toe of your right leg, raising your heel and contracting your calf muscles as you push the weights overhead, performing an overhead tricep extension. Hold the top of the position for a few seconds and repeat the movement.
Reps/sets: Perform 15 repetitions each side/three sets