How to Work Out Your Gastrocnemius Muscles

6th August 2018
When you plan your exercise routine, it is important to keep your gastrocnemius muscles in mind and plan specific activities to work them out.

It is said that the gastrocnemius muscles are the muscles that are most “dependent” on genetics and that it is actually impossible to make them grow. Regardless, there are specific routines designed to target them. In this article, we will give you exercises to teach you how to work out your gastrocnemius muscles.

The gastrocnemius muscles: the most “stubborn” muscles in the body

It would seem that the gastrocnemius muscles are the most difficult muscles to change, since there are several factors that influence their shape and size: the length of the Achilles heel, the percentage of fast-twitch fibers, genetic predisposition, the accumulation of fats, etc.

While it is true that you work out your gastrocnemius muscles every day when you walk or climb the stairs, it is also very important to remember them when you exercise.

At the same time, it is also fundamental to know what each muscle group is composed of. The gastrocnemius muscles are within the Triceps Surae group, next to the plantar muscle and the soleus. They all share the Achilles tendon. The most ‘visible’ part of the group is the gastrocnemius muscle, which starts behind the knee and goes down to the tendon. Its function is to raise the heal and to help flex the leg.

work out your gastrocnemius muscles

How to work out your gastrocnemius muscles

Now that you know a bit more about these muscles, it is time to add certain exercises to your routine in order to enhance them. It is essential that all of your movements are complete and are slow, in order to achieve better results. Do not forget that your technique is extremely important.

If you have asked yourself how to work out your gastrocnemius muscles, it is probably because you are interested in toning or developing that part of your legs. Of course, your routine will not only consist of exercises for this area. Still, we recommend that you include at least two of the following exercises in your training:

1. Seated Heel Lift

In the gym, you can find a specific machine for this exercise. Try to focus on the full movement of the muscle and try not to abuse the weights (at least in the beginning). If you do not have this machine at your gym, you can do it the old fashioned way, simply placing weights or dumbbells on your knees.

Then, raise your heels and leave only the tips of your feet resting on the floor. Hold your knees up for a few seconds and return to the starting position. Do 10 repetitions.

2. Standing Heel Lift

You can also find a machine for this at the gym that will allow you to add weights. Basically, you will place a bar on your shoulders and rest your toes on a platform. The goal is to raise and lower your heels very slowly. Do 15 repetitions.

standing heel lift

If you do not want to use the machine, it is busy, or this is your first time working out your gastrocnemius muscles, you can try a more traditional method. Stand with your legs together in front of an object that you can hold (this can be the wall, a chair, a table, or whatever else you can think of), and do the same movement: raise and lower your ankles very slowly. To add weight, you can use the famous Velcro ankle weights.

3. Unilateral Foot Lifts

Pay close attention to the contraction and stretching of your gastrocnemius muscles. This exercise is similar to the previous one, but instead of raising and lowering both heels at the same time, you will do it one at a time. Try to repeat each movement for a minute before switching sides. The best part is that you can use just your body weight to do this exercise. 

4. Leg Press

Are you familiar with this machine, which allows you to workout your legs completely? If so, you should use it if you are wondering how to work out your gastrocnemius muscles. Sit with your legs straight and your heels “in the air.” That is, off the platform. Only your toes should be touching the platform.

Then, it is as ‘simple’ as raising and lowering your heels very slowly and taking advantage of the resistance from the press. To start, you can do 10 repetitions.

5. Parallel Squats

Finally, this last exercise can help you to work out, not only your gastrocnemius muscles, but also your glutes. Stand with your legs hip-length apart. Bend your knees and slowly lower your body. Do this until your thighs are at around knee level.

Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the starting position. If you dare, try to do this on your tiptoes!