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The runner's guide to strong, happy calves

The runner’s guide to strong, happy calves

Camaraderie is built on the run. Most of us have experienced a long run’s magical ability to turn strangers into best friends. However, after working with hundreds of athletes, I argue that nothing unites us quite like our disdain for tight, weak, and painful calves. The ache of the high trigger point, the irritation of the low soleus, the generalized fatigue that keeps us from sprinting to the finish: there is nothing like it and almost nothing more common.

Anatomy and related injury

The calf complex is the distal portion of the posterior chain and consists of two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus, which travel down the back of the lower leg and unite at the common Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius serves as the power portion of the complex, with a greater role during sprinting, jumping, etc. The soleus is an endurance muscle and plays a primary role during longer miles and hill climbs. Tightness and weakness in either or both muscles can contribute to a myriad of pesky injuries including, plantar fasciitis and posterior tibialis, peroneal tendon, and Achilles tendinopathy, amongst other things. So how do we safeguard against these and start building stronger, more powerful calves? Strap in folks, as we break it down.

The runner’s guide to strong, happy calves:

Phase 1: Preparation and mobility

When preparing any muscle group for movement, it is important to warm it up with passive movements, active movements, or both. In this routine, we will use a ball and our body weight to target areas of concern, improve circulation, reduce tightness and prep the calves for exercises to follow.