Prepare to bare a more toned lower leg this warm-weather season.
They’re among the most important vanity muscles for the fitness-focused, and with summer just around the corner, your calves are about to be on full display. But even regular gymgoers are misguided when it comes to toning the lower legs: “You’ll see plenty of lifters doing calf raises all day and nothing happens,” says Justin Jacobs, Tier 3-plus personal trainer and fitness manager at Equinox in New York City. “The athletes with great calves are dancers, basketball players, tennis players, and they develop their muscles through powerful and quick movements.”
What does work: The power and agility route—more specifically, body-weight moves that involve plantar flexion (think pressing the ball of your foot downwards). “If you’re looking to drop body fat for the summer, these jumping moves will give you a metabolic boost and a tight-looking calf,” says Jacobs. Try this mini-routine on its own, or use each of the three exercises as cardio intervals in your regular strength routine.
Warm-up: Start in plank position, then shift your weight back to stretch your calves, and then shift forward. Do 10 to 12 reps.
Jump rope: Start with both legs, then progress to single-leg jumping.
Squat jumps: Squat, then really drive through your foot as you jump out of the squat. “You want the toe to be the last part of the foot that touches the floor when you take off, and the first part that touches the floor when you land,” says Jacobs. Do 15 reps.
Speed skaters: Mimic the athletes’ movements, and alternate lunging side-to-side, making sure your foot falls with your toe touching down first. “Your back leg acts like a tail, counterbalancing you,” says Jacobs. Do 15 reps on each side.