If you’re bored to death with standing calf raises, it might be time to swap them out for something a little more interesting: donkey calf raises.

Here’s everything you need to know about this twist on the classic standing cuff raise.

Donkey Calf Raising: Step-by-Step Instructions

Raise the donkey's calf  Raise the donkey's calf

  • Place an aerobic step or weight plate on the floor a few feet behind a railing or other sturdy, waist-high object.
  • Hold the railing with both hands, bend forward at your hip joints, and place the balls of your feet on the far end of the step.
  • Slowly lower your heels to the floor as far as possible, pausing for one-count in the stretched position.
  • Raise your heels as high as possible, squeeze your calves at the top of the movement, and hold for a one-count.
  • Take a full three-count to lower your heels to the floor and repeat.

Ass muscles targeted by calf raises

Calf muscles  Raise the donkey's calf

The donkey calf raise exercise targets two major muscles in the calf: Gastrocnemius (or simply gastroc) and Solace.

Gastrocnemius

Stretching calves primarily hurts the gastro, says Jennifer Novak, MS, CSCS, performance recovery coach and founder of Peak Symmetry Performance Strategies.

When well developed, the gastrocnemius is the outwardly visible muscle you see when you look at someone’s calf.

It has two heads — one medial and one lateral — and crosses the knee joint, meaning it helps bend the knee and bend the foot downward (known as plantarflexion), according to Novak.

The gastrocnemius is also roughly 50/50 slow-twitch vs. fast-twitch muscle fibers, yielding a greater percentage of the latter than the soleus, and subsequently more explosive power.

Soleus

The soleus, which lies below the gastrocnemius, does not cross the knee joint. Its function is therefore limited to assisting in flexion of the foot (aka plantarflexion).

And whereas the composition of the gastrocnemius is evenly split between fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, the soleus is predominantly slow-twitch muscle fibers, according to Novak.

As such, the soles help more with endurance-focused activities, such as standing, walking and jogging.

Benefits of rearing donkey calves

Adding donkey calf raises to your strength routine is a great way to strengthen your gastrocnemius and soleus, which will increase your performance in other sports and activities: “We need to train these muscles because plantarflexion of the foot is a key component of walking and sports movements,” says Novak.

Having strong gastrocnemius and soleus muscles can also support your Achilles tendon, helping this band of thick tissue work better.

Your calf muscles come together to form your Achilles tendon – the largest tendon in your body.

The Achilles tendon, in turn, connects your calf muscles to your ankle bone and provides the spring-like force you need to accelerate, decelerate and land safely during power moves.

“When the Achilles has an ideal amount of elasticity, it can dissipate the force applied to the muscle, thereby reducing the risk of muscle injury such as a strain or tear,” explains Novak.

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