Equipment required- Step or block that you can SAFELY stand on.
Benefits- Strengthens the gastrocnemius muscle and helps to prevent the achilles tendon from becoming shortened. It's especially beneficial if you normally wear heels or other footwear elevated at the heel.
How to perform-
- Stand tall. Push your big toes into the step or block.
- Have a very slight bend in the knees. Hold onto a stable waist or chest high object for balance and safety.
- Begin the movement by SLOWLY lowering both heels at the same time toward the floor. Very important NOT TO BOUNCE out of the bottom of the movement.
- Hold for a second or two at the bottom to feel a stretch in the calf muscle and achilles tendon.
- SLOWLY begin to change direction and lift the heels as high you are able. Remember: continue to focus on pushing the big toe down towards the ground.
NOTE: If working one leg at time, maintain the very slight bend (10 degrees or less) in the knee of the working leg and let the ‘resting’ leg remain elevated off the ground with as little movement as possible. Take deep breaths into your abdomen (NO shallow chest breathing). Remember that working muscles need oxygen. Breathe...all the time.
Number of repetitions- 8 - 12 total or, if using a stopwatch, 45 - 90 seconds per set.
Beginner - 8 - 12 repetitions using both legs at the same time.
Intermediate - 8 - 12 repetitions using one leg at a time.
Advanced - 8 - 12 repetitions using one leg at a time and holding a dumbbell or kettlebell. Hold the extra weight with same hand as the leg you are working--this maximizes the work performed by the muscle as the weight is traveling in a more ‘straight up and down’ fashion instead of pulling slightly across your body as can happen when the weight increases.
Fun fact- The contraction of the calf muscle by walking, running or performing calf raises pushes blood back toward the heart. It's a great way to get the blood flowing after sitting for an extended period of time. So the next time you're on a long flight, stand up next to your seat and do 15-20 repetitions to get some blood flow in your lower extremities.