Has your Podiatrist/physiotherapist prescribed calf exercises and you’re not sure why? The following blog will help you understand the importance of calf muscles in everyday life, and more specifically, running.
The calf muscles are a group of two muscles, the gastrocnemius, and soleus. These muscles allow for the extension of the ankle (plantarflexion) and are one of the most important muscle groups in everyday movements such as walking, jumping, and running.
Having strong calf muscles has numerous amounts of benefits, including the following:
- Reduced risk of injury
Reduced strength in the calf muscles may lead to greater reliance on other lower leg and foot muscles. This ultimately increases the risk of overuse injuries. Calf strengthening may reduce the risk of injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy, stress fractures, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), plantar fasciitis, peroneal tendinopathy, and tibialis posterior tendinopathy.
- Improved performance
Your calf muscles are responsible for the ‘push off’ phase in walking/running. Therefore strengthening your calves can help you run faster and longer. A combination of plyometrics (explosive movements) and resistance (slower movements) added into your exercise regime 1-2 times per week will help you reach higher limits.
- Ankle stability
With the gastrocnemius and soleus being the primary plantar flexors of the ankle joint, improving calf strength will allow for greater loads to be placed on the ankle joint as well as improve ankle stability. Calf strengthening can be particularly good for those who are prone to ankle sprains and plays a key role in ankle rehabilitation.
Single leg calf raise
The single-leg calf raise is a common exercise used to strengthen the calf muscles and improve function, particularly in runners. The movement involves rising up as high as you can onto your big toe on one leg followed by controlled movement down back onto your heel. You can hold onto a wall with your fingertips, but be sure to not push off with your hands. Avoid hip and knee movement so that it is only the ankle joint moving.
A study conducted by Herbert-Losier et al (2017)¹ assessed the healthy norms for the number of single-leg calf raises an individual should be able to achieve at one time. The following numbers were concluded per age group:
If you would like to know more about strengthening your calf muscles, feel free to get in touch with us.
¹Hebert-Losier, K., Wessman, C., Alricsson, M., & Svantesson, U. (2017). Updated reliability and normative values for the standing heel-rise test in healthy adults. Physiotherapy, 103(4), 446-452.