03 May 2020

By Victoria Athey BSc MSc MCSP. Physiotherapist and Sports Massage Therapist at 360Athletic

Quads, glutes, abs, hamstrings, pecs, lats … calf muscles aren’t always the first on our list of go-to muscles we want to train and develop. However those pesky little calves we rarely think to train could be the crucial missing link that might tip you into the injury danger zone. 

If you are already experiencing pain or injuries, book a physiotherapy appointment now

We all want to get the most out of our 1 allowed outdoor exercise per day (especially when its sunny!) however this seems to be leading to a spike in clinics of lower limb overuse injuries – for example Plantar fasciitis, Tendinopathies, Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints), Calf Strains and Tears. What do they all have in common? Commonly significant calf weakness and/or poor calf endurance can be an important contributing factor.  Yes surprisingly your calves could actually become your hero.

Why Are Calves Involved With Injury Prevention?

The calf is actually made of two muscles – Gastrocnemius and Soleus – together their main function is in plantarflexion (pointing the ankle down). When we are walking we push off the floor in this plantarflexed position using these muscles to propel us forward. Now when we progress this to running (runners listen up!) the Gastrocnemius muscle group produce forces of 1.5-2.8x body weight and the soleus produces 6-8x body weight!! (wowsa). Think of how strong your calf muscles need to be to be able to produce and absorb all that force whilst being resilient to injury. Suddenly it makes it so much more understandable why poor muscular endurance and weakness in these plantar flexors are risk factors in developing so many injuries. 

Now I have your attention you may be wondering how to check if YOUR calves are strong enough… what is the NORMAL?

How Do My Calves Measure Up?

The table below shows normative data on single leg calf raise endurance from a study done by Herbert-Losier et al in 2017.  Simply find the results for your age group to give yourself a good comparison (based on healthy adults). For example for an average healthy 35 year old female you should be aiming for 27 reps, males for 32 reps. Then perform a single calf raise for as many reps as you possibly can, count and compare!

Male Female
20-29yrs 37 reps 30 reps
30-39yrs 32 reps 27 reps
40-49yrs 28 reps 24 reps
50-59yrs 23 reps 21 reps
60-69yrs 19 reps 19 reps
70-79yrs 14 reps 16 reps
80-89yrs 10 reps 13 reps

Hebert-Losier, K. Wessman, C. Alricsson, M. and Svantesson, U. ´ (2017) Updated reliability and normative values for the standing heel-rise test in healthy adults. Physiotherapy

How do I Improve?

If you hit those numbers or above excellent work – make sure you maintain that epic strength! However if you didn’t manage to achieve the target you will benefit from some calf muscle conditioning. Either way having a proper training program is the best way to ensure you are correctly and progressively strengthening your entire body. Here at 360 Online you will most certainly benefit from getting involved with our expertly programmed exercise training – our coaches will ensure ALL the right muscles are targeted and strengthened intelligently to prevent injuries and optimise fitness. Get in touch if you have any questions.

If you have been experiencing lower limb or foot pain, you will greatly benefit from a Physiotherapy assessment to address the root cause of the issue. Book in today!

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