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The plantarflexors and dorsiflexors are the muscles located in the lower leg that act on the ankle. The plantarflexors function to extend the ankle, while the dorsiflexors flex the ankle. You can strengthen these muscles by doing a variety of plantarflexion and dorsiflexion exercises using dumbbells, machines and other types of training equipment.
The plantarflexors are a group of nine muscles: The gastrocnemius medial head, gastrocnemius lateral head, soleus, plantaris, tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus, flexor digitorum longus, fibularis longus, and fibularis brevis. The gastrocnemius muscles are the largest and most evident superficially of the plantarflexors. This two-headed muscle group can be seen at the back of the lower leg. You can target the gastrocnemius, and the other plantarflexor muscles by doing calf raise exercises, such as the standing machine calf raise, the bent-over machine calf raise, and the standing one-leg dumbbell calf raise.
The dorsiflexors comprise four muscles: Tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus, extensor digitorum longus and fibularis tertius. The largest and most evident of these muscles is the tibialis anterior, which can be seen superficially in the front of the lower leg. You can work the tibialis anterior and the rest of the dorsiflexors by performing reverse calf raise exercises, such as the standing machine reverse calf raise, the incline leg press machine reverse calf raise, and the seated machine reverse calf raise.
Workout Frequency, Sets and Reps
You should train the plantarflexors and dorsiflexors one to two times per week. During each workout, perform two to three exercises for each of these groups of muscles. Do three sets per exercise and 10 to 12 repetitions per set. In between each set, take a two minute rest to allow the lower leg muscles to adequately recover before the next set.
If you want to shorten your plantarflexor and dorsiflexor workouts, you can utilize supersets. This is a training technique in which you perform two exercises back-to-back with no rest, take a short rest, and then repeat the two exercises back-to-back, and so forth. When using this technique, do an exercise for the plantarflexors, such as the standing machine calf raise, and then immediately perform an exercise for the dorsiflexors, such as the standing machine reverse calf raise. Repeat the supersets three more times before moving on to the next two exercises for the plantarflexors and dorsiflexors, which you would also superset.