August is calf appreciation month!
Your calves might be the Ron Burgundy of the leg… They’re kind of a big deal!
Fun fact – your calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and soleus) and the other muscles in your foot/ankle account for 75% of support with walking and over 55% with running according to biomechanical research studies. More than the knee and hip!
A recent research paper showed huge contributions from the calf muscles in accelerating up to sprinting speeds. As football season begins and you see running backs make awesome cuts to the side to juke a linebacker, their soleus has the largest contribution to countering the forward sliding of their tibia (shin bone). To put this into perspective, the ACL stops the shin’s forward sliding from going too far on your femur (thigh bone). In fact, the best hands on test for checking an ACL tear assesses if the tibia goes too far forwards.
Keep in mind that your body works as a whole system; not muscle by muscle or joint by joint. A good training plan accounts for strengthening the entire lower body with multi-joint movements as key exercises.
With running, jumping, and walking/hiking your calf is getting a lot of work!
That may be the majority of the training they need. However, if you’ve had a leg injury and lack calf and foot strength, endurance, and/or power, it could be a limiting factor in your locomotion and sport performance.
Then some calf focused exercises may be beneficial.
I hope you enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, and may your calves be strong like bull! (cow pun intended)
If you have experienced, or are experiencing a lower extremity injury, come in and see me for an assessment. Although the injury or pain may be upstream or downstream from the calf area, it’s best to work on the entire lower body, as it all works in unison to move us from one place to the next.
Give us a call and Champion Your Body with the APEX Team!
— Written by Dr. Jon van den Boogaard, DPT.