Calf raises, 4 reasons you should be including them in your exercise program.

Updated: Jan 10

The simple but highly effective calf raise is often neglected in training programs and sometimes in rehab programs for the lower limb.

We have covered in a previous blog the anatomy of the calf complex and potential injuries that it can sustain. Read more in our previous blog here.

Here are our top 4 reasons why should include them as well as a video showing you some different ways to train your calves.

Number 1: The body's shock absorbers.

Our first reason is along the lines of injury prevention for runners, walkers and those that are on their feet alot !

When walking the gastrocnemius which is the more superficial muscle in calf complex will absorb up to 1.2 x bodyweight when walking, while its deeper lying partner in crime the soleus is capable of absorbing upto 8 x bodyweight.

The soleus is often neglected in rehab and training and easily trained by doing calf raises with the knee bent to up to 90 degrees.

Number 2: Expend less energy running and walking.

These are the muscles that help propel us forwards in walking and running. It doesn't matter if you are a recreational runner, serious athlete or just love a sunday dawdle. The better your strength endurance in your calf then the less energy you will expand and the easier it is too run and walk.

Number 3: Spend less time at the physio with unnecessary injuries.

When you strengthen the calf you are not only looking after the "active muscle tissue" but you are increasing the strength of the tendon and its associated connective tissue. This helps us maintain the spring like qualities of the tissue and prevent injuries developing like:

  • Achilles tendinopathy

  • Plantar fasciopathy

  • Shin splints

Number 4: Balance, the art of not falling over !

Last but not least, and possibly the most overlooked and neglected element.

The calf muscle complex is incredibly important in controlling postural sway.

This is easily demonstrated when you stand and aware of drifting forwards and backwards subtly. Your calf complex helps to regulate this sway and keep you standing upright and not battling gravity.

How to do the calf raise properly:

The correct technique is to push through your big toe joint, and rise up onto your heels at a slow and controlled speed, then slowly lower your heels back to the ground. All the while, maintaining body-weight through the big toe joint.

Commonly I see clients in our practice who will rise up onto the outside part of their forefoot – indicating what some would call “low gear propulsion”.

This is opposed to high gear propulsion, which is with the weight equally distributed between the big and little toe , maybe a little more through the big !

How many should i be able to do ?

Glad you asked, here are two tables showing what is considered the normal range for single leg and double leg calf raises:

Top tips on how to start integrating calf raises ?

  • The simplest and most effective way is to do them when you brush your teeth in the morning and at night.

  • If you go to the gym do calf raises in between sets of one of your major exercises e.g upper body work or lower body.

  • Start slow and controlled, 3 seconds up / 2 second pause / 3 seconds down.

  • Alternate days doing them with straight knees and bent knees so we can work the soleus and te gastrocnemius.

  • As they get easier you can do them over the edge of a step for more range and difficulty.

Check out videos of these exercises in our achilles blog here.

Give them a go and get that spring back in your step



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