Has your podiatrist ever asked you to complete calf raises as a part of your rehab or running program? Are you a runner who neglects strengthening as a part of your weekly routine? Do you incorporate strengthening into your routine but not sure why? Have a read below, test yourself against the norms, and find out why EVERY runner should incorporate calf raises into their exercise routine!
Why EVERY runner should incorporate calf raises into their routine
Running is a highly repetitive, single leg exercise. It requires significant strength through the calf complex as well as the supporting muscles that cross the ankle joint into the foot. By incorporating calf strengthening into our routine, we can increase performance and reduce risk of injury.
The calf muscles are in charge of the push-off motion that propels ourselves upwards and forward.
A study by Sedano et al (2013) compared runners training endurance only versus an endurance AND strengthening program. The strength program consisted of a combination of plyometric (jumping, explosive movements) and resistance (slow, controlled exercises). Results showed improvements in performance over a 3km time trial in those who completed the strength program compared to those who did not!
- Strength training contributes to improved running performance
- We should include both resistance based AND plyometric exercises as a part of our strength training
Given the highly repetitive nature of running, without adequate calf strength we typically see injuries occur within the foot and ankle due to overuse. Some injuries that can be prevented with calf strengthening include:
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Shin Splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)
- Plantar fasciopathy
- Stress fractures
How many single leg calf raises should you be able to do?
Herbert-Losier et al (2017) studied over 500 healthy active people and found the healthy norms for the following age groups as follows.
I challenge you to set yourself up on a single leg and count how many you can do! If you’re a keen runner, reaching the above norm is great, but we should be aiming for higher to keep up with the requirements of regular running- so keep that in mind. Your reps should be completed with your fingertips against a wall (don’t lean on a bench- that’s cheating!), leg straight and reps should be well controlled. Count how many you can complete before failure (ie. you can’t do any more!).
Finally, have a think about incorporating calf strengthening into your regular training program. If you’re a runner- single leg training is always best to mimic the movement patterns required for running. If you’re not sure where to start, book an appointment with your podiatrist, physio, osteo or exercise physiologist for some guidance.
- Hébert-Losier, K., Wessman, C., Alricsson, M., & Svantesson, U. (2017). Updated reliability and normative values for the standing heel-rise test in healthy adults. Physiotherapy, 103(4), 446-452.
- Sedano, S., Marín, P. J., Cuadrado, G., & Redondo, J. C. (2013). Concurrent training in elite male runners: the influence of strength versus muscular endurance training on performance outcomes. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(9), 2433-2443.