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Build your calves with toe walking.
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Round, firm calves do more than enhance the look of your legs. Strong calf muscles power your stride, improve your speed and stability and protect you from injury. These are all factors that can boost your performance on the playing field, running track and dance floor. When your regular calf routine becomes old, swap standing calf raises for toe walking. Walking on your toes is a more dynamic exercise that will keep your lower-leg workout fresh.
Toeing the Line
The muscles that make up your calf -- including the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles -- are responsible for plantar flexion of the foot, or movement of the foot away from your shin. When you rise onto the balls of your feet, your calves contract to lift your heels off the floor. Walking on your toes takes it a step further -- literally. As you walk with your heels lifted, your calves remain active, helping you stay upright as they propel you across the floor. Toe walking is a basic body-weight exercise, meaning your body alone serves as resistance.
And There's More
Toe walking does more than build calf strength. It's also great for developing core strength and improving posture. In order to keep your alignment and maintain control as you walk, your core muscles -- including your abs, back and hips -- fire up. Toe walking also develops your proprioceptive ability, or your ability to sense where your body is in space. When you walk on the balls of your feet, you've got a relatively small base of support. Your proprioceptors -- which include sensory and motor nerves -- have to communicate with your body, which then makes necessary adjustments to keep you upright. Working on your proprioception in this way can help improve coordination and balance, which increases movement efficiency and reduces your risk of injury.
Best Foot Forward
To perform toe walks, move into a hallway or push furniture and other items to the sides of a room. Standing at one side of the hallway or room, rise onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels as high as you comfortably can. Keep your insteps directly over your second and third toes; don't allow your heels to roll forward or backward. Keeping your head, shoulders and hips aligned over your ankles, walk back and forth or around the room for 30 to 60 seconds. Keep your abs engaged, your shoulders down and slightly back, and your eyes forward as you breathe normally. To target different calf muscle fibers, repeat the exercise, first with your toes angled inward, then angled outward. Toe walks can also be done with dumbbells or a weighted vest. If you're working with dumbbells, use the heaviest weight you can handle with proper form for 60 seconds
To get the most out of toe walking and avoid injury, warm up your lower legs before your tip-toe workout. After five minutes of general cardio activity -- such as marching or jogging in place -- do a set of ankle circles to increase circulation to your calves, ankles and feet. When you walk on your toes, maintain proper posture and move with total control. Follow the exercise with a light calf stretch to maintain flexibility. Facing a wall, step back with one foot. Placing the palms of your hands on the wall for support, gently press your back heel toward the floor. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds. Repeat up to four times before switching sides.