Photo Credit: Total Workout
When talking about safety and physical wellness on and off the dance floor, most dancers tend to focus on the feet and ankles. The calves, not so much.
If you’re into social dancing and you love wearing Latin dance shoes with high heels, there’s a good chance that your calves feel absolutely wrecked after dancing for several hours. The pain is rooted in the constricted movement at the ankle because the heels throw the body’s center of gravity and bodyweight off.
The Importance of Calf Strength in Dancing
The calf muscles enable you to make quick, explosive movements. When you're dancing, the calf muscles let you glide, slide, jump, and change directions. With every step, the calf muscles propel the body forward, absorbing impact and supporting the rest of the lower body and limps all at once. By strengthening the calf muscles you will:
- Become more agile
- Be able to move longer
- Be able to move at a consistent pace while dancing
- Able to jump higher for dynamic dance moves
If you’re not toning the calves, the muscles lose the strength and conditioning needed to support your passion for dancing. When the body weight is concentrated to the balls of the feet (when wearing high dance heels, for example), the calf muscles’ pump weakens, which leads to poor blood circulation. The muscles are also strained because of the high heels, which stretch the arches, shifting the bodyweight to the forefoot. You have to build the foundation for stability. That's why strengthening the calf muscles is an important part of a dancer’s workout regimen.
Apart from practicing dancing in heels, you have to strengthen the calf muscles to maintain balance and coordination after hours of dancing in heels. And dancing with weak calves will only increase your risk of an injury. Think about it, the calf muscles generate power in every movement that your leg does - walking, running, jumping. If the calves are weak, you’re unable to execute any dance moves. And you are more likely to suffer from an injury if you’re not toning the calf muscles.
The Calf Muscle Complex
The calf muscle complex is located at the back of the lower leg. It is comprised of two superficial muscles: the upper gastrocnemius and the lower soleus. These thick bands of muscles join together at the ankles to become the Achilles tendon that goes down all the way to the heel.
Gastrocnemius muscle: This is the bigger band of muscles and it makes up the upper part of the calves. It is composed of lateral and medial heads and both muscles start from the back of the femur or thigh bone and then below as the Achilles tendon.
Soleus muscle: This is a band of muscle located under the larger gastrocnemius muscle. It stretches from the shin bone (tibia and fibula) and is joined by the gastrocnemius at the heel to make up the Achilles tendon.
At-Home Workout to Strengthen the Calf Muscles
Keep those calves strong and flexible by working out regularly! Here are simple yet effective calf workouts that you can try at home, anytime!
Plié Squat with Shoulder Raise
Start in a wide plie position with a dumbbell in each hand. Do not bend your knees past the toes and keep the arms in fron of the body. As you raise your arms up with the weights over head, straighten the legs then bend the legs back to the starting position as you drop the arms back. Do 15 to 20 reps.
Standing Calf Raise with Weights
A oldie but still a goodie! This workout will keep your calves strong and toned. Stand up straight with dumbbells on each hand. Keep the feet hip-width apart. Slowly rise up to your toes then pause for a few seconds before bringing the heels down. Do 15 to 20 reps.
Isometric Plié squat with Heel Raise
Start in a wide plié squat, with your toes slightly turned out and knees bent. Do not stick the butt out. Lift your right heel off the floor, keeping the thighs and hip steady. Contract the core to stabilize the body. Bring the right heel down and then lift the left heel off the floor. Alternate the heel lifts, continuing to engage the core throughout the workout. Do 15 to 20 reps.
More Calf Exercises Tutorials
Keep those calves strong and lean so you can dance better, faster, and longer. Wear your favorite Yami dance shoes and we promise you, you’ll be dancing for hours without pain.