Exercises to Isolate the Soleus Vs. the Gastrocnemius

Exercises to Isolate the Soleus Vs. the Gastrocnemius

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Bend your knees to target your soleus.

Chris Clinton/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The soleus and gastrocnemius muscles make up your calves on the backs of your lower legs. These muscles work together to plantar flex, or point down, your toes. With a slight change in the position of your knees, you switch the focus of calf raise exercises to your soleus - the skinnier muscle to the side of the fatter gastrocnemius. Tack these exercises onto your leg routine to see more development in your calves.

Design Your Program

Perform one to three sets of each exercise. Use a high number of repetitions such as 20 when performing your soleus exercises. Select a weight that causes muscle fatigue for the final two repetitions of each set. During your exercises, you'll be better able to isolate the soleus, a single-headed muscle, when your knee is bent to approximately 90 degrees.

Stand Strong

You can strengthen the soleus in a standing position. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of a step or on top of a weight plate or block of wood. Bend your knees as if lowering into a squat. Aim to bend the knees to 90-degree angles. Exhale and raise your heels as high as possible. Inhale and lower your heels until you feel a stretch in your calves. The bent-knee position focuses the action on the soleus.

Sit and Lift

The soleus works best when you perform a calf raise with a bent knee. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is in a seated position. You can perform this seated in a chair with the balls of your feet on weight plates or a block of wood. Hold a dumbbell on each thigh, or position a barbell across your upper legs. If available, use a seated calf machine. Exhale and raise your heels as high as possible. Inhale and lower your heels until you stretch your calves.

Enjoy Flexible Benefits

The soleus and gastrocnemius are stretched in two different ways. Again, you target the soleus with a bent-knee stretch. Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step your right foot approximately two feet behind your left foot. Bend your left knee to a comfortable position. Bend your right knee slightly and press your right heel toward the floor until you feel the stretch in your soleus. Maintain the stretch for a minimum of 15 to 30 seconds on each leg.


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