restore: the legs program
caring for the calf muscles and lower leg
The crucial lower-leg:
the link from the feet to the knees
The lower leg, along with the knee, is probably the most common site for a running injury. The reason why is obvious: Just above the foot and below everything else – if there’s a weak link ANYWHERE in the kinetic chain, the calf muscles and all of the other associated tissues – the Achilles Tendon for one – end up taking a beating.
The answer will always come back to THESE things:
- Adequate strength in both the soleus and gastrocnemius.
- Adequate length (ankle dorsiflexion).
- A stable core (to ensure the calf – along with the hamstring – isn’t being asked to compensate for a lack of stability in the trunk).
Two out of the three are taken care of in this program! For #3, refer to RESTORE: The Foundation Program, and RESTORE: The Core Program.
The calves provide important propulsive forces during running. A loss of strength in these muscles as we age is one MAJOR reason why older runners slow down. Stay strong down there!
What about a calf strain?
Calf strains can happen for many reasons – including running too many miles too soon or some other training error.
They can also occur for one other important reason: asking the calf muscle to do a job it wasn’t designed to do.
If you experience a strain, the question must be asked: how are your calves being asked to do the work of some other part of your body?
Some examples or reasons for calf strains…
- Inadequate ankle dorsiflexion/ankle mobility (are you staying on top of the calf stretching?)
- Inadequate hip mobility as they help absorb shock…
- Less than optimal stability and strength through the core/trunk. Again, part of the shock-absorbing…
- Shoe change recently?
- Change in training status which might make the calves more susceptible for a strain?
- Residual scar tissue in the area from prior injury?
As always, getting to the root cause is key.
One of the calf muscles’ PRIMARY responsibilities is to eccentrically “stop” the forefoot from being pushed back into the shin when the foot makes contact with the ground.
Think about this for a moment: without a calf or Achilles tendon, you wouldn’t be able to absorb ANY force or even be able to stand.
With each mile of running being the equivalent of ~750 one-leg squat jumps for each leg, we can easily see the repetitive stress that these muscles are under.
It also becomes easy to see that when we ask them do to ANOTHER job (to compensate) injury almost ALWAYS will follow. It’s just a matter of time.
In this program, we’ll train the calf muscles as a complex (both gastrocnemius and soleus together) and we’ll also train them individually via straight leg and bent-knee raise variations.
Additionally, we train the muscles of the leg with our barefoot and toe work!
To PRINT a PDF of the written information on this page, CLICK HERE!