Calf workouts are part of most exercise routines, and for good reason. The calf muscles contribute to stability and balance, as well as agility and speed. Working the calf muscles effectively means choosing calf workouts that build muscle and increase flexibility, and such workouts can be included with other lower body workouts to form an effective strength training routine. The easiest calf workouts to perform are simple stretching routines, which will increase flexibility, reduce the risk of injury, and improve blood flow in the lower legs. Stretching routines can be done at home, in the office, or at the gym and usually require little or no specialized equipment.
Stretching the calf muscles will prepare those muscles for more strenuous exercises to come. By keeping the calf muscles limber, other muscles in the leg will also loosen and become more flexible, which can, in turn, improve hip flexibility and core strength. Stretching calf workouts should include toe raises, which involves placing the toes of the foot on a slightly elevated platform and dropping the heel. Another way to stretch the calf and the hamstring at the same time is to lie on one's back and use a strap looped around the toes. One should raise the leg so it is perpendicular to the ground, then pull on the strap so the toes begin to stretch downward toward the body.
Other calf workouts are intended to build calf muscles. The most common exercise included in muscle building calf workouts is the calf raise. To perform a calf raise, one should grasp a dumbbell in each hand — the weight depends on the lifter's fitness level — and find a raised platform. One will then place his or her toes on the raised platform and lift the heels off the ground so the weight of the body is on the toes and ball of the foot. The lifter will hold this position for two seconds, then release. Several repetitions of this exercise will help build muscle and tone in the calves.
A gym or fitness center will have machines specially designed to work the calf muscles. Calf workouts that include the use of these machines will help build muscle quickly. The two most commonly used machine are the seated calf raise machine and the standing calf raise machine. The standing calf raise machine works in much the same way as the calf raises described above, except the user does not hold barbells in his or her hands. Instead, a resistance yoke rests on either shoulder, providing weight for the calf raise. A sitting calf raise works similarly, except the user is sitting and the yoke rests on the top of the knees.