Calves are a huge problem if they are not looked after – and often they are ignored until something goes wrong. Why not treat your calves right from the start to prevent injury and improve your performance. It is easy to do with the calf exercises I am going to show you today!
Far too often I see runners that have felt calf tightness or a little niggle and kept pushing through – only to wind up with an injury, stopping them completely! You need to run smart.
Calf Muscle Endurance is the key:
Yes, your calves need to be strong, but more importantly, the calf muscle needs endurance! If your calves lack endurance they are prone to any number of injuries including:
This is because as we run, walk and just stands on our feet throughout the day our calves are always being used and they slowly start working less and less – leading to other muscles compensating and bones being over-stressed. Men on average take around 7000 steps per day and woman 5000 – now that is a huge amount of work that your calves are doing!
Of course preferably everyone should be doing 10,000 steps per day for optimal health – 10000 step challenge.
This enormous workload that your calves are doing is why calf pain often comes on part-way into a run or walk or towards the end of the day, when they start failing.
Why do you need to exercise your calves?
As we mentioned earlier, calves take an enormous amount of load with every step we take. They are impacted as we go about our day as they support our lower body. To Prehab (preventative rehab!) your calves we need our calf exercises to improve:
- Calf muscle endurance
- Calf muscle length
- Ankle and calf neuro muscular control
So here they are – Calf Exercises:
1. Calf stretch and roll:
Note: Static stretching (holding a stretch) before exercise isn’t recommended – It is best to do dynamic stretching or foam roll the calf as below.
You can also give yourself a good deep tissue massage with a Foam Roller:
Action: as shown place the other leg on top to get more weight through and roll for 2 minutes each calf at least. When you find sore, knotty or tight spots, stick on them for a little longer slowly working into it.
2. Heel raises:
Action: Standing beside a wall with one finger on it for balance, do 30 single leg heel raises on each side, performing one every second. Two times daily.
Note: If this causes pain in the Achilles or you have had or have Achilles pain – then you should do eccentric heel raises:
Action: go up with both heels (double heel raise), take the weight off the unaffected side and then lower slowly with the affected side/ side you are strengthening. Do 3 sets of 15 twice daily and if you have Achilles trouble then you need to do this for at least 12 weeks to rehab it well. (study)
3. Balance retraining:
To retrain balance and neuromuscular control through not only your calf but your whole lower limb (functional exercises have a great cross over into your sport) there is a number of tools you can use:
- Bosu ball as shown in the image
- Wobble board
- Or you can fold up a towel and to make it tougher roll it up tightly and double up.
So there is no excuse for not doing this exercise as wobble boards are very cheap and affordable and you will have plenty of towels at home. This will not only improve calf control but also decrease the chance of and rehab sprained ankles and knee pain.
Action: Standing on one leg (don’t let your legs touch) hold it for one minute each leg, every day.
How to make it harder:
- Add in hand weights, punching above your head
- Add in heel raises
- Add in single leg squats (obviously, don’t add these all in at the same time!)
Doing these three easy calf exercises every day will, reduce your injury risk, rehab current injuries and niggles and help you PERFORM BETTER, which is a huge bonus right?
Keep up the good work,
let me know how you get on and share it around!
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