Sunday, June 5, 2011
A short time ago I was at a gathering at which there were several famous stage beauties who were known for their devotion to physical culture. The discussion naturally turned toward physical culture and its influence on health and beauty, which was admitted by everybody. Finally, one of the ladies, known to every theatregoer for her wonderful ability as a dancer, turned to me and said: "Mr. Liederman, there's one thing that has always impressed me on the bathing beaches. There isn't one man in a thousand who hasn't ugly legs. Either they are too fat, or they are too stringy and skinny.
"You may see hundreds of girls with beautifully formed legs, calves, and ankles, but you very seldom see a man who would pass muster, especially from his knees down. Why is this?"
I replied that very few men pay any attention to symmetrical development, or muscle building. They try to build up a big chest, or shoulders or arms. But they hardly ever give a thought to their lower extremities. These leg muscles do not show so much for the work put in on their development. Again, the means used to bring about this development are practically unknown, except to a few physical culture specialists who have paid particular attention to building up these ordinarily stringy muscles into well-rounded proportions.
The Calf of the Leg Hard to Develop
As a matter of fact, the calf of the leg is, without doubt, one of the hardest parts of the body to develop, owing to the fact that the muscle is continually placed In a contracted state by walking, and the further fact that it responds very slowly to exercise. The size and shape of the calf, the same as with the thigh, depends greatly upon heredity. Some people fortunately possess well-shaped legs below the knee, while others less fortunate have great difficulty in developing the muscles of the calf even to fair proportions.
A person with an exceptionally developed pair of calves, regardless of what some people may claim, must, in the first place, have had a certain amount of fleshy tissue to begin with. Then, with considerable muscle building work, he will be able to develop the gastrocnemius muscle behind the calf to exceptional proportions.
Again, the length of the bone must be taken into consideration. The tall individual with long bones cannot develop a calf in proportion to a chap whose legs are short. Therefore, you usually find phenomenal calf development among people of somewhat short stature. In order to give his calves the proper amount of attention the lanky individual has to do double the amount of work that the fellow who begins with a little beef in this part of his anatomy has to do.
The common exercise of rising up and down on the toes will start the student off with calf development. However he cannot expect to develop to any marked degree by this light exercise. Therefore, after a few weeks, he should resort to rising up and down on the toes of one leg at a time. He will then have to progress again after a short period by working the calves against a stronger resistance, and keep on progressing.
The calves should be tired at least two or three times during each exercise period. The student need have little fear of overstraining the muscles of the calf, because they are capable of supporting great strain.
The calves are one of the first places varicose veins put in their appearance. These are caused by continual standing on the feet, thereby keeping the muscles in an over-tensed state, and consequently causing the walls of the veins and arteries to become weakened.
To the average student the gastrocnemius muscle, or the muscle behind the calf, constitutes the main object of lower leg development. In reality, however, a muscle of vital importance is the muscle of the shin, for this muscle, when properly developed, gives the calf 50 per cent more attention value, and changes the appearance of the outside and front of the calf.
Size of the Ankle a Great Factor
The size of the ankle has a great deal to do with the shape of the calf. A person who has small ankles will undoubtedly have better shaped legs than a person whose ankles are thick and heavy. It is a peculiar thing, and one that very few people seem to know anything about, but persons with thick ankles are usually subject to weak ankles. The slim-ankled individual hardly ever develops sprains or strains in this part.
Much of what I have said regarding the development of the muscles of the thighs and the hips applies with almost equal force to the calves. Running, jumping, and climbing are especially valuable. I also recommend rope skipping, especially when you spring from the toes with each skip, as this puts direct strain on the muscle of the calf.
It goes without saying that this exercise is also splendid for lung development and for increasing wind and endurance. I also recommend dancing as a good exercise for developing the calves, especially if you'll "stay up on your toes" as much as you can, and not slouch into the lazy habit of spending most of your time on the soles of your feet.
I do not believe it is possible to over-emphasize the importance of development of the muscles of the calves in bringing about a more springy and elastic stride when walking, and even a moderate amount of weakness or lack of development in the calf muscles will diminish the grace and freedom of your walk.
This springiness is one of the first things you lose when the arches of your feet break down. And the lack of the power and development that brings about this springiness, is in turn one of the chief evidences of that relaxation of the muscles that finally results in flat feet.
So remember that whatever exercise you are practicing to develop the muscles of the calves, it will also help strengthen the muscles of the arches of the feet.
Exercises for the Calves.
As the calves of the legs are so hard to develop, owing to constant walking, the student should not become discouraged if the progress is much slower than in other parts of his body. However, the simple rising up and down on his toes will develop the gastrocnemius muscle behind the upper calf to a certain extent. But better progress can be made if this s is performed on one leg at a time and the muscle is tired within twenty or twenty-five repetitions.
Still better results can be accomplished by rising up and down on the toes with the weight of a bar-bell, or a progressive exerciser that offers similar resistance. Further and quicker progress still can be made by performing this exercise against artificial resistance, with the toes resting on a book, thus giving the gastrocnemius muscle more play.
When the student eventually discovers that this last exercise is becoming too light for him, he can perform it on one leg at a time.
The shin muscle, called the tibialis anticus, really makes up the contour of the leg, when properly developed and when viewed from the front, for this muscle presents a pleasing curve to the anterior portion of the calf. It is developed by keeping the feet flat on the floor and bending the knees forward as far as possible, without raising the heels from the floor.
If you will perform this movement with a bar-bell on your shoulder, or with someone sitting on your shoulder, you will soon observe a different appearance to your calves. Sprinting will again prove an important factor in the development of the calves, although you should limit your sprints to 100 yards at the most. Sprinting is a great developer for the calves, but endurance running is not. For as I have said in a previous chapter, endurance runners usually have thin legs, while sprinters are well knotted up and symmetrically developed.
In order to get the most complete development of your calves, I would suggest that you secure a block of wood, or a good thick book that will raise you about four inches from the floor. Stand on this with the heels, the toes extending over the edge of the block of wood or book and touching the floor. Now raise the toes as high as you can, using the utmost strain possible. Relax and then repeat until you are tired. This is splendid for the flexor muscles on the anterior or front of the lower leg.
Then stand on the external edge of the book on your toes, and allow yourself to drop down as far as possible. Then raise slowly as far as you can, let yourself drop back, and repeat the exercise until you have a very definite ache in the muscles of the back, or posterior portion of the calf.
Now stand with the toes resting on the book, and roll the feet until the entire weight of the body rests on the outer sides of the feet. Then roll back again until the weight of the body rests on the inner sides of the feet. Repeat this exercise until the muscles in the inside and the outside of your calves feel tired.
You will find that these exercises will develop every muscle in the lower leg, and with such symmetry and uniformity that the calves will be in perfect proportion, and you will possess something that few men ever take the trouble to develop--a shapely and muscular pair of calves.
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