He’s been away for a while but Niall O’Crualaoich has returned with another article on training, apparently this is a rarity but a goodie….
It was about time for another article and I thought I would pick an exercise that is rarely added to most programs but will benefit runners in particular.
Gym Basics: Standing Calf Raises
Calf raises can be a brilliant exercise for the lower legs which is (the calf) made up of two muscles. The upper muscle otherwise known as the Gastrocnemius and the lower one, known as the Soleus. Also during this exercise we see the ankle extending. This is an exercise which is applicable to all sports but in particular running. It is usually neglected in favour of the larger leg muscles but the calf plays a huge part in propelling the runner forward and then cushioning the runner in landing phase of the running gait.
The standing calf raise, which is generally the most common gym machine, emphasises the Gastrocnemius (upper calf) more. Whereas the seated version works the Soleus harder.
If you are in a gym, then ask the instructor how to use that particular machine, below is just a generic description of how to use the typical Standing Calf Raise machine. Also make sure you are medically fit to commence a training regimen and nothing substitutes proper Coaching or instructing.
- Adjust the machine to your body’s dimensions.
- Stand tall under the shoulder cushions, facing forward, looking straight ahead.
- Keep your hips, knees and ankles in alignment. Making sure your feet are positioned correctly for the type of machine you are using. (generally weight on the toes)
- Your heels are generally below the level of your toes when in the start position. This allows for you to use the full range of motion of the ankle. Do not go beyond the full range of motion as this might lead to injury (of the calf or Achilles tendon)
- Lift the weight (or your bodyweight) up above the level of your toes, which has you standing in a tippy toe position. Do this in a controlled motion.
- Pause, and then lower under control, returning to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.
While doing this exercise it is important to maintain the correct form. So look ahead and do not allow your body to twist, or load on leg significantly more than the other. Avoid rolling the ankle inward (or outward), keeping the forces going through the joint. Keep the toes pointing forward; this is to prevent putting too much stress on the knees. Some bodybuilders, I have spoken to, advocate a wider stance to work the inside of the calf more (and a narrow stance to work the outside), but the normal, shoulder width is more than sufficient. The most common mistake is to bend and straighten the knees during the exercise, this brings the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles into the exercise thereby taking the emphasis off the Calf muscles. Always keep your knees stiff but not locked in order to best isolate the calf muscles and minimise the involvement of other muscles.
If you don’t have a machine available to you, this exercise can be performed using a step of any kind (or large book). The easy way to introduce this exercise to your program is to stand on the first step of your stairs, lightly holding the banister for stability. You allow your heels to overhang the step and, as above, progress through the range of motion using your bodyweight as the resistance. You can then progress to holding a dumbbell or weight and even further to standing on one leg only for the standing calf raise. The single legged calf raise should be built up to and not treated as an entry level exercise.