Calf raises, not just for calf tear rehab.

calf raises | Arana Hills Physiotherapy

The simple calf raise, essential for more than treatment of calf tears.

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 calf muscles, your 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: Calf raises help you 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.

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Number 3: Calf tear injury recovery and prevention.

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: Calf raises and 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.

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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 calf raises 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:

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What speed should i do the calf raises at ?

We want to test the endurance of these muscles by doing these exercises to the beat of a metronome. Aim for around 30 BPM. Anywhere between 25-35 BPM is a a good pace.

calf raise targets | Arana Hills Physiotherapy

how many calf raises | Arana Hills Physiotherapy

 

Top tips on how to start integrating calf raises into your training?

  • 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.

Calf raise stair challenge:

You can “gameify” your calf raises as follows:

Go to a set of stairs :

step 1: 1  single leg calf raise on left and right.

step 2: 2 single leg calf raises left and right.

etc , etc

once you can’t do single leg calf raises then do double calf raises till you get to the top.

Check out videos of these exercises in our Achilles blog here.  Also for more information on the function of the calf complex and some alternative gym based rehab ideas check out Tom Goom, the running physio blog.

Give them a go and get that spring back in your step, if you have issues with Achilles or plantar fascia you can book in to see us here

Cheers

Dave

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