You may develop your calf muscles by doing calf raises, or heel lifts. Your calves support and stabilize your knee and ankle joints as you walk, run, or leap. You need to train your calf muscles in various ways because different types of raises target different parts of the muscle.
The heel lift workout can assist both novice and experienced athletes. Runners and badminton players, who spend most of their time on their toes and rely significantly on the calf and Achilles tendon beneath them, will benefit greatly from this workout.
How to Do Heel Raises
- Stand on a firm surface or at a higher elevation to improve your range of motion. Take a hold of something to help you stay afloat.
- You can elevate your heels by using your calves.
- Slowly and steadily lower yourself to the ground and then repeat.
Strength training, not cardio, is the focus of this workout. The Achilles tendon responds well to high loads. You should be able to feel the strain in your muscles after 5–10 reps. Performing a heel lift on two legs, with equal weight distribution on each foot, is the most straightforward. For more experienced runners, a single-leg heel rise is an option. Make sure you complete the full range of motion for each exercise.
It is possible to use one leg to help with the other in a 60/40, 70/30, 80/20, or 90/10 ratio if you think that the 50/50 version is too simple and the single-leg version is too challenging. That one leg is primarily responsible for pushing forward, with support coming from both of the other legs. You don’t need any extra equipment to increase the resistance on one leg this way. Instead, you can use the same method you used for the single-leg squat to add weight to this exercise as well.
It’s a good idea to mix up the reps and weights. If you can, try to do three to five sets of 5 to 10 reps twice a week, preferably.
Anatomy And Function Of Lower Leg Muscles
The lower leg, often known as the shank, is made up of four muscle compartments:
Tibialis Anterior, Extensor Hallucis Longus, Extensor Digitorum Longus, Peroneus Tertius Anterior Compartment – Tibialis Anterior, Extensor Hallucis Longus, Extensor Digitorum Longus, Peroneus Tertius Lateral Compartment – Peroneus Longus, Peroneus Brevis
Tibialis Posterior, Flexor Digitorum Longus, Flexor Hallucis Longus, Popliteus Superficial – Deep Posterior Compartment Gastrocnemius (Medial and Lateral Heads), Soleus, Plantaris (Posterior Compartment)
In addition to the popliteus, heel raises engage the muscles of the lateral and posterior compartments, but this essay will focus on the gastrocnemius and soleus (also known as the triceps surae). The gastrocnemius contains two heads, one medial and the other lateral, that connect proximally to the distal end of the femur. The soleus, on the other hand, is the muscle that links the tibia and fibula. These muscles are connected to the calcaneus, or heel bone, by the Achilles tendon.
The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles control plantar flexion and inversion of the ankle in a non-weight-bearing position (pointing the foot down and in). In a weight-bearing position, this is known as a calf or heel lift. The gastrocnemius aids with knee flexion, especially between 0 and 15 degrees, because it crosses the knee joint. Walking necessitates the use of both muscles.
Let’s take a look at the size and force-producing capabilities of the soleus muscle before we get into the six reasons why you should be doing heel lifts. The soleus can account for up to 60% of the calf’s mass and physiological cross-sectional area, according to studies by Albracht et al in 2008 and Ward et al in 2009. (just factoring in the soleus and gastrocnemius). Ward and colleagues state that “muscle architectural values are the best predictors of muscle function,” and that the “PCSA is proportional to a muscle’s maximum force-producing capability.” The soleus is an exception to this norm, according to Lieber and Frieder, because it is designed to create great force with a small excursion. In general, the soleus is a monster!
Top 6 Reasons Why You Should Do Heel Raises
1. Increases Running Performance
Many individuals mistakenly believe that running is all about glutes! It should, however, most likely be all about the calves! Especially the soleus! According to Dorn et al in 2012 and Schache and colleagues in 2014, the ankle plantar flexors are one of the major motors for firmly pressing into the ground at speeds up to 7 m/s, or a 3.8 minute/mile. This leads to a longer stride length, which is linked to faster running speeds. Musculotendon forces can reach up to 8 times the bodyweight of the soleus during the stance phase of running!
2. Tendinopathy of the Achilles tendon
- In 2006, Mahieu et colleagues stated that “the strength of the plantar flexors was revealed as a predictor for an Achilles tendon overuse injury, with patients having a lower plantar flexor strength at greater risk.”
- In 2019, O’Neill et al found that people with Achilles tendinopathy had deficits in plantar flexor strength and endurance on BOTH sides (symptomatic and asymptomatic compared to controls), with “weakness of the soleus appearing to be responsible for the majority of the deficits” (symptomatic and asymptomatic compared to controls) (symptomatic and asymptomatic compared to controls).
- According to Willy and Paquette in 2019, “Achilles tendinopathy is the most common running-related problem faced by the Master runner,” and there are numerous other consequences of aging and changes in training as it relates to plantar flexor strength and Achilles tendon tightness.
- Beyer and colleagues showed in 2015 that eccentric calf rises, also known as heavy and slow calf raises, can be an effective treatment for Achilles tendonitis.
In any case, whether you’re at risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy or recovering from it, you should strengthen your plantar flexors.
3. Anterior Cruciate Ligament
Most people are aware that the hamstrings can protect the ACL by pulling on the tibia posteriorly during dynamic movements (known as an ACL agonist), but Elias et al in 2003 and Mokhtarzadeh et al in 2013 showed that the soleus can also protect the ACL despite not crossing the knee.
4. Shin Splints Or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
Shin splints are a common complaint among runners. “The two main mechanisms of injury appear to be traction-induced periostitis, where the cause is likely to be the soleus and/or the FDL, and microtrauma involving oedema and microcracks in the cortical bone, which results in debonding of the osteons and subcutaneous periostitis on the surface of the tibia,” Franklyn and Oakes concluded. To be honest, I believe it is still a poorly understood diagnosis. “A combination of graded tibial loading exercises and ankle plantar strengthening activities may thus be the optimum therapy for athletes with MTSS,” says Marinus Winters, one of the field’s top experts.
5. Dorsiflexion Of The Ankle
It’s not a bad idea to undertake a variety of mobility exercises to improve ankle dorsiflexion. On the other hand, those workouts usually target only one biomotor ability: flexibility or range of motion. Instead, by performing heel raises at high intensity across a wide range of motion, we can enhance mobility while also improving strength, endurance, tendon stiffness, and other qualities. You get a lot more bang for your buck in the same amount of time.
6. Balanced Looks Or Aesthetics
Strong calves are simply stunning, and while their shape and ability to alter are commonly attributed to genes, they’re a muscle group that can be trained just like any other!