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Top Priority for Runners: Calf Strength


Hey everyone, I wanted to spend just a little bit of time today talking about your calf muscles, and why it should be a priority if you are a runner. When we think about running, and strength training, we often hear a lot about strengthening our hips, and our glutes and making sure we have a really strong glute meade, which is important, but oftentimes, our calf muscles get overlooked. They should really be a top priority for us as they absorb a significant amount of load from the ground and they also help propel us forward. They’re really the powerhouse of running.

When we think about when we’re in our stance phase or support moment, our calf muscles are absorbing 50% of that force, so we want to make sure that we’re not overlooking our calf muscles when it comes to strength training. I’m gonna take you through a few basic calf exercises that you can include in your strength training routine.

  • The first one is single leg calf raise. Put one leg up on something – it doesn’t matter too much what the height is, this leg is just up here for balance, and then with the leg that’s on the ground, you’re just going to go up onto your toes, and then back down. You want to be working for 25 to 30 repetitions. Once that becomes really easy, you can load it with weight. Hold the weight in a hand and go up and down.

  • The second way you can work your calf muscle, is to put a bend in your knee (while in the calf raise position from above). From there, you keep that bend, and go up and down and your toes. This targets more of your soleus versus the straight leg in which we are targeting more of your gastrocnemius.

  • Those are two different options. You can also do a three-way heel raise. Both feet can be down on the ground. Keep your toes pointed straight forward, going up on your toes; you can turn your toes in, up and down; and then turn your toes out, up and down. You can also do it elevated. You can take any of the variations I showed you and you can then just go onto a step of some sort, doing your heel raises on the step. That can give you a little bit more range of motion.

Those are just a few different examples of some ways you can incorporate some calf strengthening into your current routine.

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.