Kicking Calves into Gear

Calves….Enough said.

If you’re coming from a weight training background and you’re note a die had bodybuilder, or incredibly in love with your calves, then you find calf training boring.  In fact, there’s a popular trend of being proud of not training calves.


#TeamNoCalves. No disrespect to Omar Isuf.

Yet, who can blame the idea?  Personally, when I got more focused on strength training, building my progress around improving the squat, bench, and deadlift, I dropped calf training altogether.  Calf training SEEMED like something unnecessary and it didn’t seem like it made any significant impact on powerlifting.

Then, I started Running

That is until almost a year and a half ago when I started running again.  This was for a 5k race that I had signed up for.  I had recently purchased Alex Viada’s Hybrid Athlete book and got really into understanding how someone could pursue multiple training goals at the same time.  I got into it because I really wanted to become a more complete athlete.  I had the desire to be able to have sizable levels of endurance while pushing for absolute strength.

Now, coming from a perspective of improving technique that I’ve learned from powerlifting, I wanted to do the same when I got into running.  So looked up proper running technique and noticed that it should be almost like skipping.  In fact, as a dynamic warm up, jumping rope was recommended as a great option to prepare the body to go run.  Now I first found out that I would tire very quickly when I tried to run with some calf lift off.  Second, I found I was terrible at jumping rope.

LINK:  Kelley Starrett and TJ Murphy’s: Read to Run

Now, aside from being terrible at jumping rope, seeing injured runners at Form and Function Clinic also made me want to focus on building my calves up again.  Physiotherapist, Manni Wong, always highlighted how running had to be an equal distribution of effort from calves, glutes, and quads.  Manni emphasized how doing so, would make running smoother and more efficient.  calf

Training your Calves

Strength coach, Paul Carter, made a point that doing calf raises with slow eccentrics plus a paused-hold at the transition point would be an effective variation to try.  He rationalized this by saying that the thickness of the Achilles tendon (the attaching tendon to the gastrocnemius) make it an excellent tissue for explosive work. For that reason, slowing down the movement of a calf raise and holding at the transition point could help work the gastrocs effectively.  Paul says you take out the stretch reflex.

The lesser-known muscles of the deep flexor group also work to maintain the medial arch and prevent pronation of the ankle which (along with a weak glute medius) can contribute to “knee cave” or valgus collapse. – Paul Carter (T-Nation; How to Build a Bulletproof Backside)

LINK:  T-Nation How to Build a Bulletproof Backside

So, Do your Calf work

Its amazing how through different perspectives in training we can develop different weaknesses.  I mean, I should have kept training calves, even when I wasn’t running.  Calf training has gone from being the last thing on the priority list to, not necessarily the first, but definitely higher up the scale.  Its partly to this experience that I think trying to become more well-rounded is a great goal to chase after for better longevity for myself, and hopefully to yourself as well.



Form and Function Clinic

The Gait Guys Podcast

Matt Kritz

T- nation How to Build a Bulletproof Backside

Breaking Muscle Building Better Calf Muscles: How The Calf Works And How To Work It 

Breaking Muscle Two-Jointed Muscles Of The Lower Body: What They Are And How To Train

Visible Body Learn Muscle Anatomy: Gastrocnemius

Reflex response and control of the human soleus and gastrocnemius muscles during walking and running at increasing velocity

In vivo behavior of the human soleus muscle with increasing walking and running speeds

The Running Physio  Building strength to prevent calf pain when running

Dean Sommerset A More Sophisticated Approach to Correcting Knee Dysfunction