Whether you go to the gym a few times a month or every day, you've probably seen or used a treadmill at least once. This machine is unique compared to all the apparatus one would find at an average gym, as it simulates a real-life outdoor running experience.
Using a treadmill in your regular workout is specifically beneficial for strengthening and toning the legs, weight loss, and of course, looking great in shorts. What's more is that most modern treadmills have an incline setting, which allows the user to modify how steep the running deck is.
In terms of building calf muscles, what benefits does running or walking on an incline have? Does it help in building calf muscles?
Incorporating treadmill workouts on an incline is great for gaining muscle mass in calves, with the help of a good diet and a structured exercise routine. Whilst doing this, the legs push towards the ground and exert force onto the calves, causing the muscle fibres inside to break and repair, hence building muscle.
The building of muscle is also known as muscle hypertrophy, which occurs when muscle fibres undergo damage and sustain it.
During exercise, the body uses up glucose for aerobic respiration. However, the part where you start to run out of breath and pant is where anaerobic respiration starts. This is when the body runs out of glucose provided by the food one eats and instead begins to use up glucose from various parts of the body, such as fat.
Anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid, which, when reacting with muscles fibres, results in them being damaged. Luckily, the wondrous human body repairs these fibres by fusing them, increasing the muscles' mass and size.
Therefore, when you exercise continuously over time, you repeatedly put a strain on your muscle fibres, and in turn, cause them to gain mass.
Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibres of the muscles sustain damage or injury. The body repairs damaged fibres by fusing them, which increases the mass and size of the muscles. Certain hormones, including testosterone, human growth hormone, and insulin growth factor, also play a role in muscle growth and repair.Jayne Leonard - Medical News Today
When walking on a flat surface, calf muscles can rest at every step, whereas when walking on inclines, the muscles constantly support your weight.
Taking this into account, walking and running on inclines is excellent for building calf muscles as muscle fibres are damaged when legs are pushed down towards the ground and are repaired to become more prominent.
An exciting circumstance outside of the world of fitness is that most people from the Philippines have muscular calves. Of course, it shouldn't be assumed that this is because every household is equipped with a treadmill, but instead linked to the fact that the country itself is a vast collection of hills.
With this in mind, one can say that most of the walking done by the average person living in the Philippines is on an incline. This only shows that a significant role in building calf muscles is played by walking and running on surfaces with an incline.
In terms of using treadmills to gain muscle in the calves, this is a great option. As mentioned previously, the incline on a treadmill can be modified, and so one can start small when experimenting with steepness.
Like in any skills you want to improve, it is vital to start small and not overwhelm yourself. Starting with a 1 or 2 percent incline is already a step in the right direction, quite literally.
The main difference between running or walking on a treadmill and copying that guy you saw balancing his toes on a step and doing calf raises is that the first option involves actually moving your legs.
As said previously, muscles gain mass only when under strain. So when you move your legs, the muscle fibres inside go from respiring aerobically to anaerobically. This leads to the breaking and repairing of muscle fibres and, eventually, muscle gain.
Try thinking of how much your legs move when you walk on a level path versus going up a steep trail. Think of the movement involved: Which scenario involves more bending in the legs? Obviously, the latter option.
Now apply this to increasing the incline on a treadmill, and thus increasing the movement in your legs. The higher the incline percentage, the more movement there is, and subsequently, the more muscle gain there is.
With all this information in mind, you might as well just get a treadmill and start walking on an incline.
But what about those hikers that walk through exhaustingly steep hills regularly? How come they are so lean and don't have the expected extra bulk on their calves?
The thing is that with endurance exercises such as walking and running, the muscle fibres that are damaged are slow-twitch fibres (those that are used for sustained activity). These are the type that are repaired by the body to create lean and long muscles.
The large bulky muscles lusted after by bodybuilders are only acquired through the extensive strength training of fast-twitch muscle fibres.
With explosive muscle action and strict diets, bodybuilders can maintain a low level of body fat and subsequently build chiselled calf muscles.
But you need only take a look at hikers, mountain climbers, and marathon runners to see that this can't be the case. You might wonder how such lean legs can get them to the summit or across the finish line. If walking and running led to big leg muscles, these people would look very much different.Wendy Bumgardner - Very Well Fit
It is therefore mainly within the diet and exercise regime that large calf muscles can be obtained. But with a few steep treadmill sessions per week at the gym, the road to having calves of Greek gods is indeed much more accessible.