Megan Johnson McCullough –The calf muscle is actually made up of 2 muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the larger muscle that we see bulging out of the leg. It is a superficial muscle (just under the surface of the skin) that has 2 heads. The soleus lives underneath the larger muscle. The two muscles taper together the bottom and head into the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon that leads down to the heel. When movement occurs (walking, running, jumping), the calf muscle takes the lead and pulls the heel up for motion.
The calf muscle plays a major role in lower body movement, so when its functioning is disrupted, this is cause for concern. A pulled calf muscle occurs when the calf has been stretched beyond its limit. This can lead to a strain caused by the over stretch that tears some of the fibers. These tears can be partial or complete and range in severity. A “Charley Horse” in the calf muscle is common cramping condition. These can result from fatigue, diet, dehydration, and muscle imbalance. Stretching, massaging, wearing proper footwear, and good diet are important factors. Exercise is the best approach to build strength and endurance for this muscle especially when one’s occupation involves constant standing.
To strengthen the calf muscle, different variations of raises can be done with body weight or added weight. Exercises can be done on one or both legs. Exercises can be done seated or standing.
The calf muscle can often go neglected when the common focus for exercise is on the major muscle groups. However, when the calf muscle isn’t happy it will let the body know. Soreness to this area can happen after a night in high heels, running after a long break from exercise, repetitive jumping, and stair climbing. Sometimes the hardest workers need attention too and the calves should not be under-valued. In order to put one foot in front of the other, the calf has to move the body forward. So just because they live behind the leg, doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of making the to-do list at the gym. The body is a kinetic chain and it is only as strong as its weakest link.
Megan Johnson McCulloughEvery BODY’s Fit –