Do you know the importance of strong calf muscles?
Our calf muscles are often over looked, with most of the focus being on the glutes, quads and hamstrings, but good calf strength has a direct effect on your athletic ability, including injury prevention.
The calf is made up of two main muscles: the gastrocnemius (larger muscle on top) and the soleus (smaller muscle underneath), both of which come together to form the Achilles tendon, inserting on the back of the heel.
They act to stabilise you ankles and feet, preventing your feet from rolling inward (pronating) or outward (supinating). Keeping the biomechanics of the lower limb in line is incredibly important for walkers, preventing hip, knee, ankle and foot disorders.
Your calf muscles are essential for walking and running, generating the final push during the toe-off phase to propel you upward and forward, contributing to your pace and stride length. Strong calf muscles are also essential for generating power during vertical jumping, an advantage to many sports, particularly basketball, volleyball and netball.
How do your calves compare?
Standing on one leg, lift your heel as high as possible, pushing your weight through your first and second toes, to avoid rolling onto the outside of the foot. Perform as many single leg heel raises until failure.
*Please do not try this if you have any contradicting medical conditions, pain on exertion, acute injury or severe balance disorders.
Herbert-Losier et al (2017) studied over 500 healthy active people and found the following average number of heel raises for male & female age groups:
These results are a useful guide for those going through any type of lower limb rehabilitation (especially foot, ankle & calf) to make sure they’re working towards age & sex-matched healthy guidelines.
A great time to fit calf strengthening into your daily routine is to perform calf raises whilst brushing your teeth. Some other great calf strengthening exercises include toe walks, toe jumps and high skips.
Also don’t forget to stretch the calf muscles!
A good stretch involves standing on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Hold onto the rail and lower your heels below the level of your foot. Hold for 20-30 seconds then repeat with your knee slightly bent (this targets the soleus muscle).
If you would like any further information or calf strengthening exercises then do get in touch!