If you’re bored to death with standing calvesmaybe it’s time to swap them with something a little more interesting: donkey calf breeding.
Here’s what you need to know about this twist on the classic standing calf raise.
Raising a donkey calf: step by step instructions
- Place an aerobic step or weight plate on the floor a few feet behind a railing or other sturdy object at the waist.
- Holding the railing with both hands, bend forward at your hip joints and place the soles of your feet on the far edge of the step.
- Slowly lower your heels as far to the floor as possible, pausing for a beat in the stretched position.
- Raise your heels as high as you can, squeezing your calves together at the top of the movement, and hold for a beat.
- Count three times to lower your heels to the floor and repeat.
Muscles Targeted by Donkey Calf Raise
The donkey calf rearing exercise targets the two main calf muscles: the gastrocnemius (or simply gastroc) and the soleus.
When well developed, the gastroc is the outwardly visible muscle you see when looking at someone’s calves.
It has two heads – one medial and one lateral – and crosses the knee joint, which means it helps to bend the knee and flex the foot downward (known as plantar flexion), according to Novak. .
The gastroc is also made up of about 50/50 slow twitch muscle fibers to fast twitch muscle fibers, giving it a higher percentage of the latter than the soleus, and therefore a more explosive capacity.
The soleus, located under the gastroc, does not cross the knee joint. Thus, its function is limited only to helping to flex the foot downward (i.e. plantar flexion).
And where the composition of the gastroc is evenly split between fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, the soleus is slow twitch major muscle fiberaccording to Novak.
As such, soleus aids more in endurance-focused activities, such as standing, walking, and jogging.
Benefits of Donkey Calf Breeding
Incorporating donkey calf raises into your strength training routine is a great way to strengthen your gastroc and soleus, which will increase your performance in other sports and activities: “We need to train these muscles because the plantar flexion of the foot is a key part of the sporting process and movement,” says Novak.
Having strong gastroc and soleus muscles can also support your Achilles tendon, helping that band of thick tissue do its job better.
Your calf muscles unite to form your Achilles tendon – the largest tendon in your body.
The Achilles tendon, in turn, connects your calf muscles to your heel bone and provides the spring-like energy you need to accelerate, decelerate, and land safely during power movements.
“When the Achilles has an ideal amount of elasticity, it can dissipate the force applied to the muscles, potentially reducing the risk of muscle injury, such as a strain or tear,” says Novak.