Change your foot position and challenge your calves.
Lower leg power supplies the force for jumping, walking and running. When you want to increase the strength of your lower leg, you can perform exercises to target the entire gastrocnemius and soleus. Or, you can slightly change the position of the exercise to target the inner portion of the gastrocnemius. This changes the look of your lower calves and can make them more symmetrical.
The gastrocnemius resembles two teardrops on the backs of your lower legs. It is a two-headed muscle with a medial head and a lateral head. The medial is toward the inside of your leg and the lateral toward the outside. The gastrocnemius originates on your upper leg bone and is connected to you heal by the strongest tendon in your body.
When the gastrocnemius contracts, your foot plantar flexes. In other words, your toes point down. During running, walking and jumping, your toes forcefully push down to propel you forward or upward. You feel the gastrocnemius contract when you stand on your tip toes; one way to strengthen the calves is to walk on tip toes.
Turn It In
Traditional calf raises, in which you shift your weight onto your toes and raise your heels, strengthen the gastrocnemius. You can do these with your heels hanging off a stair for a greater range of motion. You can also perform the exercise on one leg at a time for focused strengthening. The American Council on Exercise recommends turning your toes in to target the upper, inner, medial, head of the gastrocnemius.
Make It Work
You can use a wall or a chair for balance during the calf raise, or increase the intensity by holding onto a dumbbell in each hand. Stand with your feet spaced at a hips-distance apart. Your toes point slightly inward. Position your right foot toward a 10 o'clock position and your left foot toward a 2 o'clock position. Exhale, shift your weight onto your toes and raise your heels. Maintain the contraction slightly at the top and then inhale as you return to the starting position. As your balance improves, stand with the balls of your feet on a step and your heels hanging low.
The inner gastrocnemius exercise is added two or three days a week into your fitness routine. Rest for at least one day in between workouts. If using a dumbbell, use a weight that you can lift for one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions. The final two repetitions of each set should be challenging. If using your body weight, increase the repetitions until your calves feel fatigued. Perform the exercise one leg a time to increase the challenge.