When it comes to physical appearance, cankles might be the most dreaded scenario possible. This slang word describes the lower leg when the calf and ankle do not have a clearly defined separation. It appears that they are one fluid, continuous body part. This is often the case when the individual’s calf muscles are not developed, or they have a substantial amount of adipose tissue (fat) surrounding their lower leg.

Your body has its own unique set of characteristics, including height, weight, and body type. But you can effectively tone up and change the shape of different body parts through healthy eating and weight training.

Keep in mind: Building muscle is achieved more effectively when you engage in training that includes resistance exercises, instead of simply doing cardiovascular exercises such as running.

Incorporating a few calf muscle exercises three to four times a week along with following a sensible diet can make a difference in the shape of your lower leg.

Not only will your two calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) get stronger, but you will become leaner. Weight training also helps tone your muscles, improving your appearance and fighting age-related muscle loss.

5 cankle-reducing calf exercises

1. Weighted calf raises

Equipment needed: You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell for this movement.

Muscles worked: superficial calf muscle (gastrocnemius), deep calf muscle (soleus)

  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding your weights at your sides. Keep your arms extended and shoulders relaxed.
  2. Shift your weight onto the balls of your feet.
  3. Press your weight down and push your body upward, raising your heels off of the ground.
  4. Hold it for a brief moment at the top.
  5. Bring your heels back down to the ground. Make sure to keep this motion controlled.
  6. Don’t lock your knees. Keep them in an athletic position, slightly bent.
  7. Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions with a weight in each hand. Adjust this weight as it feels necessary.

If you need to increase the challenge, you can use a heavier weight in each hand, or increase your reps per set to 20.

2. Stair calf raises

Equipment needed: A stair that has a drop-off of at least 5 inches. Weights are optional.

Muscles worked: superficial calf muscle (gastrocnemius), deep calf muscle (soleus)

  1. Stand upright with the balls of your feet on the edge of the stair.
  2. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet.
  3. Press your weight down and push your body upward, elevating your heels.
  4. Hold it for a brief moment at the top.
  5. Bring your heels down to below stair level. You should feel tightness in the front of your shin during this part of the motion, and a stretch in your calves.
  6. Make sure to keep this motion controlled.
  7. Don’t lock your knees. Keep them in an athletic position, slightly bent.
  8. Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions.

The goal of this move is to improve mobility and strength simultaneously.

3. Seated calf raises

Equipment needed: You’ll need a weight like a sandbag, weight plate, or barbell for this exercise.

Muscles worked: superficial calf muscle (gastrocnemius), deep calf muscle (soleus)

  1. Sit in a sturdy chair with your weight resting across the top of your thighs.
  2. Drive your toes into the ground to push the weight upward and bring your heels off the ground.
  3. Hold it for a brief moment at the top.
  4. Bring your heels back down to the ground.
  5. Having the weight on your thighs should assist you in keeping this motion controlled.
  6. Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions.

The aim of this move is to isolate your calves to increase strength. Start with a lower weight and work up.

4. Lunge calf raise

Equipment needed: kettlebell, weight plate, or medicine ball (optional)

Muscles worked: Performing a calf raise in a full lunge works your balance, mobility, and flexibility in your hip girdle and in your calf muscles.

  1. Stand upright, holding your weight in front of your chest.
  2. Take a large step forward and dip into a lunge, with both legs bent at 90-degree angles.

Elevate the heel of your front foot by driving your toes into the ground. Hold each rep for a brief moment at the top. Be sure to keep your knee on track; do not allow it to cave inward or roll out.

  1. Bring your heel back down to the ground.
  2. Make sure to keep this motion controlled and keep your core tight.
  3. This movement may feel very challenging, as you must also keep your balance with your weight as you perform each repetition.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.

The focus of this move is to improve balance and stability. Don’t worry about using a heavy weight to start.

5. Jumping rope

This straightforward childhood pastime is an excellent tool to help work on your calf muscles.

Equipment needed: jump rope that’s the appropriate size for your height

Muscles worked: superficial calf muscle (gastrocnemius), deep calf muscle (soleus)

Each time you jump, make sure the rope passes under your feet. Focus on keeping your elbows in close to your body, rebounding off of only the balls of your feet (heels should not touch the ground), and finding a breathing rhythm.

Aim to perform 5 sets of 1-minute jump roping with 30 to 60 seconds of rest in between. Feel free to adjust this to a longer time to increase the challenge. You can also attempt double-unders (the rope must pass under your feet two times in between jumps) to make this move more advanced.

Next steps

Remember, it’s important to shift your focus from being critical of your body to loving yourself. Don’t let a single body part become an obsession. Cankles will soon be a thing of the past if you work on training these muscles and adopting a mindful, healthy lifestyle.