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Training for a running event? Don’t forget to do your calf raises!

Training for a running event? Don’t forget to do your calf raises!

Whether you are new to running, a weekend warrior or a seasoned marathoner/ultramarathoner - this article is worth a read! Lower limb injuries are common in runners, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with them! If you are needing some help in this area our team of awesome physios can help.

Holly McIntosh ·
~3 minute read

What makes up the calf muscle?

The calf muscle, or triceps surae, is made up of two layers. The outer, more superficial layer being the gastrocnemius, and the deeper layer which is called the soleus. These muscles both attach via a common tendon to the heel bone, this is your Achilles tendon and is the thickest, strongest tendon in your body!

What role does the calf play in running?

The calf muscle’s main action is plantarflexion of the foot and ankle, which happens when we push off the ground when walking or running. During running, 50% of your forward momentum is generated from below the knee - this means that your calf muscles are doing a whole lot of work! 

There is also large amounts of force required during each landing as the lower leg, in particular the calf muscle has to absorb this load before pushing off again. In fact, your calves can take up to eight times your body weight with each stride!

Common injuries in this area

Common injuries that we see in the running population include calf strains, Achilles tendinopathies, and shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). Interestingly enough, we often recommend calf strengthening as treatment and also prevention of these injuries, go figure!

Did you know?? - you should be able to perform 25 single leg calf raises in a row, try it out for yourself!

Four’s top tips for calf strengthening

  • Keep it simple:

    • Aim to perform your calf raises with good form - keep even weight through the big toe and the little toe

Don’t rush - avoid “bouncing” up and down as this won’t get the same results as performing the movement with control - aim to pause for one second at the top

  • Frequency:

    • We recommend performing calf strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week

  • Singles vs doubles?:

    • As running is a single leg sport that requires a lot of calf strength and load tolerance, we recommend single leg calf strengthening over doubles, every time

  • Don’t forget the soleus!

    • Make sure to do both straight knee (gastroc focussed) and bent knee (soleus focussed) calf raises

  • Add load:

    • To get the most out of your calf raises be sure to load them up

    • Try performing them off the edge of a step, weighted (with a heavy backpack or using a machine in the gym), increasing the number of repetitions or increasing your speed on the way up (i.e. fast up, slow down)

      • What we offer

Here at Four, we are skilled in treating any running-related injuries through education, hands-on treatment, exercise prescription and running technique assessments. We offer standard physiotherapy consultations which cover all of the above.

We also offer running consultations for those of you are interested in primarily improving your running technique and diving deeper into running biomechanics and performance.

Online bookings for both are available here.