The calf muscle is made up of 2 muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the large muscle which can be seen beneath the skin, and the soleus is a smaller muscle which lies under the gastrocnemius. The muscles taper into the achilles tendon which inserts in to the calcaneus (heel bone).
The calf muscles function to pull to heel upwards during activities such as running walking and jumping to allow forward movement.
So how important is strengthening your calves?
Think about how much movement your calves are involved in, whether it be during exercise or just on a day to day basis.
Strengthening your calves can have a positive impact on a number of things, including:
Ankle strength and stability
The calf muscles are involved in plantar flexion of the foot at the ankle joint. Improving your calf strength will have to improve the ability of your ankle to handle load, and help to stabilise during running based movements.
Running and sprinting performance
During running, the calves are active and provide most of the final ‘push’ needed to propel upwards and forwards. Calf pain is also a common complaint in runners, so keeping your calves in strong condition is a must to help you run at your best!
Weak or tight calves make you more susceptible to a range of injuries, including shin splints. Maintaining good calf health by strengthening regularly as well as stretching and foam rolling will help to prevent injury.
The video below shoes calf raise progressions from beginner to advanced. If you are new to calf raises, start at the first progression and make sure you master that before moving to the next.
Try adding calf raises to your workouts 2 times a week to begin with.