Heel drops are one of the easiest and most effective bodyweight exercises you can do and are particularly helpful for runners and walkers. They are often used to rehabilitate people who have injured their legs. Heel drops stretch and strengthen your calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius, which is the large muscle at the back of your calf, and the soleus muscle, which lies underneath it. These exercises also stretch and strengthen your Achilles tendon and help to prevent common injuries, such as shin splints and tendinitis.
How to Perform Heel Drops
The most important part of performing heel drops is to find a suitable place to do them. Ideally, use stairs with a handrail you can hold to balance yourself. If you want to use an exercise box or platform, be absolutely sure it will not tip when you stand on the edge.
- Warm up by walking fast or jogging for 10 minutes.
- Stand on the edge of your step with your feet placed shoulder width apart and pointing straight ahead. Your weight should be on the balls of your feet, with your heels hanging off the edge.
- Hold on to the handrail to keep your balance if you need to, but don’t try to support yourself with it.
- Either keep your knees straight to work the gastrocnemius muscle, or bend them slightly to work the soleus muscle. You may want to alternate in order to strengthen them both.
- Slowly raise yourself until you are standing on your toes, then drop until your heels are below the level of the step. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Increasing or Decreasing the Difficulty of Heel Drops
If you find the heel drops too difficult, try standing with one foot on a higher step than the other, and only raise and lower the foot on the lower step (taking some of your weight on the stationary leg).
If you find them too easy, there are several ways of increasing their difficulty and further strengthening your legs. First, increase the number of repetitions until you are doing around 3 sets of 20 repetitions. Then, try speeding up the heel drops, by dropping faster, but continue raising your heels slowly.
After you master quick heel drops, try single leg drops, by balancing on one foot to perform the drops. Remember to do equal numbers of repetitions for each leg. Start off with slow single leg drops and progress to fast ones.
Finally, you can try holding weights in each hand while performing the leg drops, or, if you find it difficult to keep your balance while doing them, you can wear a loaded backpack instead. Gradually increase the weight to further strengthen and stretch your muscles.
Heel drops are a type of bodyweight exercise that are simple and quick to do. They can be done anywhere you can find some steps. They are an easy way of preventing injuries and can also tone and shape the calf muscles, as well as provide more power for runners and other athletes.