Lower Leg Muscles

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User's Manual
Leg Exercises
Leg Stretches
Amazing Facts
Related Links

Calves (calf muscles)

Most people think the calves are only the two bulges on the back of your lower leg. This is only partly true. The calves are in fact a group of 7 muscles in the posterior part of your lower leg. They are separated into two groups, superficial and deep. Most of them act to point the toes.

The superficial group

Distal attachment for all superficial muscles:
Posterior of heel (calcaneus bone) via the Achilles tendon Gastrocnemius: The two bulges of muscle that people normally associated with the calves, used for rapid movements during running and jumping to lift the heel and push off the toes. They also help steady the legs when standing. High heels can enhance the shape of gastrocnemius, but are murder on the toes.

Proximal attachment: Posterior lower femur

Distal attachment: Posterior of heel via Achilles tendon

Soleus: lying deep to the gastrocnemius and also used to point the toes and lift the heels during more relaxed movements such as walking.

Proximal attachment: Posterior upper fibula
Upper tibia

Distal attachment: Posterior of heel via Achilles tendon

Plantaris: very weakly assists in pointing the toes and flexing the knees.

Proximal attachment: Posterior lower lateral femur

Distal attachment: Posterior of heel via Achilles tendon

The deep group

Popliteus: Unlocks the knee and weakly flexes the knee.

Proximal attachment: Lateral lower femur

Distal attachment: Posterior superior tibia


Flexor Hallucis Longus: Flexes the big toe and supports the arch of the foot.

Proximal attachment: Posterior fibula and the connective tissue between tibia and fibula

Distal attachment: Underside of big toe bone

Flexor digitorum longus: Flexes the four small toes and supports the arch of the foot.

Proximal attachment: Posterior tibia and fibula

Distal attachment: Underside of four small toe bones


Tibialis posterior: Inverts the foot (tipping the pinky toe down and the big toe up) and points the toes.

Proximal attachment: Posterior tibia and fibula Distal attachment: Underside of the foot

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User's Manual

Always warm up and stretch thoroughly before any activity involving running or hiking (see calf stretches and exercises).

Always cool down by jogging then walking followed by the calf stretch after strenuous activity.

Terrestrial exercises will work these muscles as they support the weight of the body during running, biking, dancing, climbing, snowboarding, basketball, soccer, football, etc.

Leg Exercises

Leg Extensions
Main target: the quads or quadriceps (the front thighs).

  • Start with knees bent at 90û.
  • Extend lower legs as far as possible.
  • Return to starting position under control.

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Leg Curls
Main target: The hamstrings (the back of the legs).

  • Start in slightly flexed position (not over extended).
  • Curl legs toward butt as far as possible.

If you can't fully complete the exercise, decrease the weight.

 

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Seated Leg Press
Main target: the front of the upper legs (the quads) and the back of the lower legs (the calves)

  • Sit with your torso erect.
  • Grab the sides of the seat for stability.
  • Start with knees bent at 90û.
  • Always keep your back straight.
  • Straighten your legs under the resistance.
  • Return to starting position under control.

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Squat
(3 sets of 10) Main Target: the quadriceps or thighs Ð also works the glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, lower back, trapezius, abdominals (for stabilization), shoulders and breathing muscles.

  • Use a spot.
  • Place a barbell on your shoulders (use a pad for comfort).
  • Hold the barbell firm with your hands.
  • Lower yourself to a full squat position (knees bent at a 90û).
  • Keep your back in good posture, your head facing forward, and your heels on the ground.
  • Return to standing position.

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Jumping Squat
Main Target: quads and calves, improving explosive jumping power.

  • Hold a single dumbbell with both hands hanging in front of you.
  • Squat, bending knees to a 90û.
  • Explode and jump upward.
  • Land and repeat.
  • Do as many as possible within 1 minute.

A great exercise to incorporate into a circuit training routine.

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Lunge
Main Target: quads

  • Hold a dumbell in each hand with arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing each other.
  • Keeping your face forward and back straight, take a lunging step forward as far as you can with your left foot.
  • quickly reverse the motion returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
  • When finished, repeat the exercise with the right leg.

Another good exercise to incorporate into a circuit training routine.

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Calf Raises
Version 1: Standing with Weight

  • Apply weight resistance using one of the following techniques:
  • Holding a barbell across your shoulders
  • Wrap a belt around your waist attached to a floor pulley
  • Another form of gym equipment
  • Stand with the balls of your feet on a block or step shoulder width apart. Allow your heels to lower below the balls of your feet.
  • Lock your knees and flex your calves until you're heels are fully raised. Make sure you don't lean forward. Rise straight up.
  • Hold for a second.
  • Lower your heels to starting position.

Try one set with your toes pointed straight ahead, another set with your toes pointed out and another set with your toes pointed in to work all sides of the entire gastrocnemius muscle.

Version 2: Standing Endurance Exercise

  • Stand with the balls of your feet on a block or step shoulder width apart.
  • Lock your knees and flex your calves until you're standing on your tippy toes.
  • 5 sets of 20

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Seated Calf Raises (using leg press equipment)
Main Target: Calf muscles
This exercise is easy on the back.

  • Lie in the leg press machine. With knees slightly bent rest the balls of your feet against the platform near the edge with the arches and heels of your feet hanging off the edge of the platform.
  • Allow your heels to extend as far as possible with the balls of your feet remaining stationary. This helps you achieve a maximum range of motion.
  • Raise the weight by extending the balls of your feet.
  • Pause.
  • Lower the weight to the starting position.

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Seated Calf Raises
Same as seated calf raises using leg press equipment only with the weight resting on the tops of your knees and thighs.

This is another method that is easy on your back.

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Martial Art Kicking Exercises Using the Floor Pulley
Main target: hip and thigh.

You should first do the exercise without resistance. simply practice kicking by itself. 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 20 reps each. Once you can accomplish 20 reps with ease, then start to use the floor pulley to add resistanceÉ

  • Fasten a strap around one of your ankles and attach it to a floor pulley.
  • Place your free foot 2.5 to 3 feet from the pulley and face away from the weight stack.
  • Grasp a sturdy vertical pole for stability.
  • Start with your bound foot behind you.
  • Option 1: Complete a front kick by quickly raising your knee high, then extending your lower leg as high as possible in front of you, pointing your toes. Return foot to starting position and repeat.
  • Option 2: Complete a round-house kick. We recommend you get martial arts training for this particular kick to avoid injury due to improper technique. A brief description can be found under self-defense.
  • Option 3: Complete a sidekick. Once again, training is recommended. A brief description is available under self-defense.
  • For either option do 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

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Leg and Ankle Stretches

Ankle rotations

  • While standing on one leg, rotate your ankles one at a time in every direction as far as they will go.
  • This will loosen up your ankle joints to avoid injury incase you land on them wrong.
  • You can try spelling the alphabet in the air with your toes if you need some form of entertainment.

Calf stretch

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Exercise 1

  • Stand facing a wall (or other vertical surface such as a tree).
  • Place your hands at shoulder height against the wall a shoulder width apart.
  • Extend your right foot backward, placing it directly in line with your left foot.
  • Straighten your back leg, pressing your heel to the floor.
  • Keep your hips facing the wall and your spine straight.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the lower leg in your calf muscle.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

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Exercise 2

  • Stand facing a wall (or other vertical surface such as a tree).
  • Place your hands at shoulder height against the wall a shoulder width apart.
  • Extend your right foot backward, placing it directly in line with your left foot.
  • Slowly and conservatively press your right knee toward the ground allowing your heel to lift slightly off the ground.
  • Feel the your posterior ankle loosen up.
  • Remember to be conservative during this stretch as it involves tendons and ligaments of your ankle.

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Quad stretch

  • Stand on your left leg.
  • Brace yourself with your left hand or practice your balance by placing your left hand against the center of your chest.
  • Take hold of the right foot with your right hand.
  • While pointing your right knee toward the ground, ease your right foot close to your buttocks.
  • To enhance the stretch, contract the quadriceps muscle. Hold this contraction for four to five seconds. Then relax the leg and pull the foot closer to the butt.
  • Feel the stretch along the front of the right thigh.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Hamstring Stretch
It's more effective to stretch one leg at a time, so you're less limited by your pain threshold.

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Option 1 Ð a good hamstring stretch to start with

  • Lie on your back.
  • Lift your right leg up.
  • Grab the back of your right thigh.
  • Slowly straighten your right leg keeping your foot flexed at a 90û angle to your leg.
  • Repeat with your other leg.
  • If your hamstrings are rather flexible and you need more of a challenge, wrap a towel around the ball of your foot, and gently pull it down with your hands.
  • Feel it in the back of your raised leg.


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Option 2

  • Sit on the ground with your left leg straight and your right leg bent so your right foot is resting against your inner thigh.
  • Point your left toes up, straighten your back and if you can, lean toward your left foot.
  • Hold
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the right leg.
  • Repeat with the other leg.


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Option 3

  • Once you completed option 2 try this more difficult stretch.
  • Extend both legs straight out in front of you.
  • Straighten your back and point your toes up.
  • If you can lean forward without breaking form.
  • Hold
  • Feel the stretch in the back of your legs.


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Option 4

  • Stand straight up.
  • Place the heel of either foot on a surface that is close to hip height.
  • Keep your toes pointed up.
  • Straighten your raised leg.
  • If you can, bend your torso at the hips toward your feet taking hold of your raised leg with your hands.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the raised thigh.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

Note: The hamstrings can cause great pain and injury if not thoroughly stretched, so you might want to hold these stretches for up to 1.5 minutes. For increased effectiveness, while bent forward in the stretching position with your extended leg slightly bent, tighten all of the muscles of the upper leg for four to five seconds. Then relax the leg. As you relax, you should be able to move farther into the stretch. Try this technique several times with each leg. This technique of contracting and relaxing helps with other stretches as well.

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Forward Splits

  • Place one leg forward and one back.
  • Use the hands for support. If your hands don't easily reach the ground, place a chair on each side, and place a hand on each chair seat for support.
  • Gradually lower yourself into the stretch for one to 1.5 minutes.
  • Feel the stretch on the front of your backward stretched thigh (quads) and on the back of your forward stretched thigh (hamstrings).
  • Push yourself back up out of the stretch with your hands when finished.
  • Switch legs and repeat.


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Regular Splits

  • Stand with your feet about two shoulder widths apart to each side.
  • Use the hands for support. If you can't place your hands on the floor, then place both hands on a chair seat directly in front of you.
  • Gradually lower yourself into the stretch for one to 1.5 minutes.
  • Feel the stretch in your inner thigh (groin or adductors).
  • Use your hands to press up out of this stretch when finished.

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Butterfly Groin Stretch (Modified Lotus, Tailor Sitting)

Exercise 1

  • Sit with erect posture.
  • Ease both of your feet up towards your crotch and place the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to come up and out to the side.
  • Grab the front of your ankles and ease both knees toward the ground, while gently pushing outward and down with your elbows.
  • Feel the stretch along the inside of your thighs and groin.

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Exercise 2

  • Sit with erect posture.
  • Ease both of your feet up towards your crotch and place the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to come up and out to the side.
  • Grab underneath your feet and ease your torso toward the ground.
  • Feel the stretch along the inside of your thighs and groin.

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Inner Leg Stretch (adductors)

  • Stand erect with your feet spread about two shoulder widths apart.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • Bend the right leg and lower the body toward the right foot keeping your back straight.
  • Feel the stretch in the inside of the left leg.
  • Repeat with the other leg to the opposite side.

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Hip and Thigh Stretch

  • Stand with you feet approximately 2 shoulder widths apart.
  • Turn the feet, pointing your toes to the left and facing to the left.
  • Bend the left leg and place your hands slightly apart on the floor to the right side of your left bent leg.
  • Extend the right leg backward while pressing down with the hips.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Feel the stretch along the underside of your left thigh and in the front of the right thigh.
  • Slowly return to a standing position keeping your feet 2 shoulder widths apart and turn to the right side to repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

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Top Thigh Stretch

  • Lie down on your stomach as if you were doing push-ups.
  • Extend your right leg out to the right
  • Push your upper body off the ground while keeping your hips against the gound.
  • Hold
  • Return to starting position.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

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  • Anatomy Topics

Related Info

Next Page of Muscular System Tour

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anatomy

Amazing Facts

  • Humans have exceptionally large calf muscles due to our upward stance, which requires the entire body weight to be supported on two limbs instead of 4, like most other animals.
  • The lateral head of the gastrocnemius often contains a small bean-shaped bone.
  • A single muscle cell of the sartorius muscle in the thigh can be more than 12 inches long.
  • You take 5 million steps per year.
  • You have all the muscle fibers you will ever have at birth. Once damaged they can't be replaced.
  • Arnold Shwarzenaeger has just about as many muscle fibers as you do. They're just thicker.
  • There are more than 600 voluntary muscles in the body.
  • If all your muscles could pull in one direction you could create a force of 25 tons.
  • Muscles account of 40% of your body weight.

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Other skeletal muscles
Facial muscles
Neck
Sternocleidomastoid
Chest
Pectoral muscles
Pecs
Diaphragm
Stomach
Abdominals
Abs
Rectus abdominis
External oblique
Internal oblique
Transversus abdominis

Shoulders
Deltoids
Delts

Arms
Biceps
Triceps
Forearms
Extensors
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Legs
Thigh muscles
Quadriceps
Quads
Lower leg muscles
Calves
Back
Trapezius
Traps
Latissimus dorsi
Lats
Erector spinae muscles
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