​You can do this exercise with many variations, depending on the degree of difficulty you want to achieve. That is due to water buoyancy that gives you a variable amount of support and resistance. Here are some of those variations, starting from easy to hard:


  • Lean against a wall, or hold the side of the pool with both hands;
  • Hold a noodle underwater with both hands;
  • Do half-heel raises, and combine them with any of the above variations;
  • Scoop your hands to assist your leg muscles in lifting the heels;
  • Do a single-leg heel raise, with the other leg bent behind your body;
  • Raise your arms above water while you lift both your heels together, or single leg;
  • Hold a noodle with your arms above water and do a single leg, or both legs, heel raises;
  • Do fast heel-raise pulses, without letting your heels touch the floor. You can do a single leg or both together.
  • Heel raise pulses with your arms above water or while holding a noodle
  • Stand on your toes and hold, using any of the above arm variations



Don't Forget to Stretch


At the end of your routine, allow some time to stretch your calf and shin muscles, and other muscles you targeted in your workout. To do that, place one foot in front of you, with heels in contact with the floor. Flex your foot and let your toes point up until you feel the stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 15 seconds then switch legs. Then put one foot back, toes fixed on the floor, and heels up until you feel the stretch in your shin. Hold for another 15 seconds then switch.


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  • Improve posture
  • Reduce the risk of injuries
  • Promotes flexibility and range of motion in your feet and ankles
  • Promotes leg muscle strength
  • Promotes balance
  • Safer than doing it on land because you don’t have to worry about falling over, or putting too much weight on your lower leg muscles.
  • Calf raise is a great exercise for building strength in your calves, feet, and ankles. Calf Raises also stretches the shin muscles (tibialis anterior muscle). 


How to Perform


Starting Position


Start by standing high in shallow water, with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward, and back straight. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet. Put your arms down at your sides.




With your toes firm on the floor, slowly raise your heels high, hold for one count, then slowly lower them back down, to touch the floor. Perform for at least 30 seconds, rest, and repeat again.




Raise your heel once as you inhale and once as you exhale. 


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aqua exercise animation of combined exercises
Underwater view of a character standing in shallow water

Muscles Worked

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Underwater view of a character standing on toes
Underwater view of a character standing on toes
28 December 2022

Heel Raises

​Here's a great way to build leg strength and develop muscle mass. I've been using this exercise in my aqua fitness classes for years, and I've seen great results. This exercise helps you get stronger and more flexible legs, besides many other benefits that I will discuss in this article. I'll also explain the proper technique, and why this exercise is particularly effective in the pool.


​Heel Raises, also called calf raises, and as the name says, involve raising the heels up from the ground and then lowering them back down, with your toes being the pivot. It is a bodyweight exercise with the main objective to achieve strength in your lower leg muscles.


​Warming up before exercise is always a good idea, especially if you are working out muscles that are not frequently used, or if the targeted muscle will be worked to exhaustion. That can be said about heel raises, as this movement is rarely ever used in our everyday lives, and muscles responsible for lifting the heel are weaker than other major leg muscles. Putting your body weight on these muscles, even in water (where only the body parts that are above water count for weight), does require warming them up first.


Stand on one leg and bend your other in front of you, at about 90 degrees. Bend and extend your high foot, at a comfortable speed and range of motion. After 1-minute switch legs. 


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