Calf Muscle Strengthening

Photo of a man running up the stairs.
The Alfredson Protocol can help treat your Achilles tendonitis. DaveLongMedia/ E+/ Getty Images

Performing a calf strengthening program may be an important component of your rehab after an injury. Some conditions may require that you work to strengthen your calf muscles. These conditions may include:

Your physical therapist can show you specific exercises to do to keep your calf muscles strong to help manage your specific condition or to attempt to prevent problems with your calves and legs.

Toe raises describe a specific exercise used to strengthen the calf muscles. The calf muscles, medically known as the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, act to point the toes by moving the ankle into a downward position. It is a strong muscle group that includes two muscular heads that terminate as the Achilles tendon at the heel.

The calf muscle is important during walking as well as activities that involve running and jumping. It is very susceptible to muscular strain injuries. After an injury, it is important to begin strengthening the affected calf muscle as soon as possible to prevent atrophy, or a loss of muscle mass, and to improve the function of your entire lower extremity.

Here are a few exercises to try to get your calf muscles stronger. Be sure to check in with you doctor before you start this - or any other - exercise program.

Seated Toe Raises:

Initially, toe raises can be done in the seated position.

This takes most of the weight off the calf muscle during strengthening, but not so much that the muscle is not "worked." It is a great way to safely put a little bit of stress through your muscle after injury or surgery.

Perform the seated toe raise as follows:

  1. Sit in a chair with both feet on the ground
  1. Pushing down through the toes raise your heel off the ground
  2. Hold the position for 10 seconds
  3. Repeat 10 times
  4. You can use a bit of manual resistance by putting your hands on your thighs and gently pushing down.

Standing Toe Raises:

This exercise is more advanced than the seated toe raise, as it places the entire weight of the body on the exercised leg.

Perform as follows:

  • Stand upright on both feet
  • Push down through your toes lifting both heels off the ground
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds
  • Repeat 10 times

You can make this exercise more challenging by performing the exercise on the edge of a step. Just place the balls of your feet on a step and raise and lower down. Performing this exercise as part of the Alfredson Protocol can help treat Achilles tendonitis and tendinosis. You can focus the exercise on both your gastroc and soleus muscle by performing it with your knees straight and then with your knees bent. (Bending the knees works the soleus muscle while performing the calf raise exercise.)

There are also calf strengthening exercises you can do if you have a resistance band. Just simply wrap the band around the end of your foot, and press down into the band. Hold the position for a few seconds, and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 repetitions.

Calf strengthening exercises should be done a few times per week unless otherwise instructed by your doctor or physical therapist. They can be done as a treatment for a specific injury, or may be done to help prevent problems with your mobility.

If you are having problems moving around or have pain in your knees, calves, or feet, check in with your doctor and physical therapist and learn the best calf strengthening exercises for you to be doing to treat your condition.

Edited by Brett Sears, PT.

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