The Heel Raise exercise, also known as calf raises, is a simple exercise that strengthens the calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
Today I’ll talk about how to do a heel raise on a step. Doing it on a step is essentially a progression from doing it on the floor.
It is considered a progression because when you’re on the step, you can go past what’s called the “neutral” of the ankle and venture into a bit of dorsiflexion (the backward bending and contracting of your foot) or flexion of the ankle.
This action gives the calf muscle a more extensive line of pull, making it more challenging to push off from going past neutral into dorsiflexion.
Benefits of the Heel Raise Exercise
Strengthening the calf muscles
- The heel raise is a progressive exercise, and strengthening the calf muscle is vital, even for knee patients.
- The calf is a large muscle group and can help absorb force, which is especially beneficial for runners and walkers who may be experiencing tension in their knees from frequent exercise.
- The heel raise exercise strengthens the calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which are important for running, jumping, and walking.
- The stronger your calf muscles, the better they can absorb some of that impact, reducing stress on the knees.
Improve balance and stability
- Strong calf muscles will also improve balance and stability in general.
Better Functioning of Your Knees
- Another reason for doing heel raise calf exercises is that the actual tendons of the calf extend past your knee.
- They reach above your knee and thus play a significant role in the function of your knee.
How to Do Heel Raises on Step
I will demonstrate how to do the heel raise exercise on a step
- Stand upright, feet hip-width apart, and step up on a step.
– When you step up on the step, with your heels hanging off the edge, you then proceed to do a traditional calf raise by slowly raising your heels off the ground
– This is the same whether you’re on the floor or on a step.
- Hold the position for a second and then slowly lower your heels down toward the ground past neutral
– The key part of the exercise is the lowering down past neutral.
– When you lower yourself down, you can go past neutral and then lift yourself back up again. This makes the exercise more challenging than doing it from the floor.
– So, if you come up first, that’s the same whether you’re on the floor or on a step.
-But when you lower yourself down, you can go past neutral into what’s called dorsiflexion or ankle flexion.
This provides a bit more of a stretch for the calf muscle, and it also demands more work from the calf muscle because you’re going past neutral into a flexed position.
– To perform the exercise, raise yourself all the way up again and then lower yourself back down.
– Starting with 2 to 3 sets of 10 on alternating days is a great way to start.
Tips for doing the Heel Raise Exercise
- Once you’ve progressed and have gotten comfortable with the exercise, add some hand weights, such as dumbells, to increase the difficulty/resistance, hold yourself up a little longer, or do more repetitions for progression.
- This is an excellent exercise not only for your ankle patients but also for your knee patients. However, it often gets overlooked in the rehab setting.
Alternative: Heel Raise with Dumbbells but flat on the ground
For this heel raise exercise, we will be using dumbbells for resistance.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and your arms at your sides.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, heels on the floor, and draw your belly button in towards your spine.
- Slowly raise your heels to stand on your toes, then slowly lower your heels to the floor.
- Raise your heels to a count of two and lower your heels to a count of three.
- Do not hold your breath; breathe normally.
With this exercise, you want a smooth, consistent motion.
Avoid bouncing, rocking back on your heels, or lifting your toes off the floor.
Repeat until you have finished ten to fifteen repetitions.
Heel Raise Exercise as part of Army PRT
Purpose: This exercise develops strength in the back of the lower leg muscles
Starting Position: Stand with the balls of the feet on the elevated platform, toes pointing straight ahead, feet aligned directly below the hips, and the knees slightly flexed.
- Raise the entire body slowly by pulling the heels up, maintaining a slight bend in the knees, and a natural arch in the low back.
- Return to the starting position.
Figure 6-28. Heel raise
- Maintain a natural arch in the lower back.
- Keep the knees slightly flexed throughout the exercise.
- Keep the head and neck in a neutral position, looking straight ahead.
- Keep the knees aligned over the feet
- Exhale on count 1 and inhale on count 2.
Precautions: Avoid flexing or extending the trunk. Do not allow the ankles to turn in or out.
What muscles do you engage during heel raise?
- The heel raise workout will primarily target your calf muscles, including the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles.
- Of the two, the gastrocnemius muscle is the larger muscle visible on the back of your lower leg.
- On the other hand, the soleus is a deeper muscle that is located under the gastrocnemius muscle.
- Both of these muscles play an important role in ankle flexion.
- In other words, these muscles are essential in day-to-day activities such as walking, jumping, and running.