Calf Strength


We’ve been seeing a lot of foot and ankle complaints lately at the clinic and have had some questions around the calf complex, so we thought we would take the opportunity to talk all things calf and calf strength with Osteo Mary. To begin – we will take you through the anatomy.

Anatomy of the Calf Complex

The calf complex is made up of 2 main muscles (pictured below)

  1. Is the Gastrocnemius (affectionately known as the gastrocs): The old favourite, iconic,
  2. Headed calf muscle a lot of us are familiar with Is the Soleus – located underneath the gastrocs, the soleus is a bit of an underrated workhouse when it comes to the calf complex

Why is Calf strength so important?

Studies in this area show that during the propulsion phase of running, both the calf muscles that we discussed earlier (the gastrocs and soleus) are the two main contributors driving forward acceleration. Furthermore, these two muscles also play an important role in providing vertical support to the body’s centre of mass. So in other words, very important (Hamner, Seth & Delp, 2010).

Calf Exercises

Calf strength is a beneficial additions to any strength program, but in particular plays a very important role for runners or anybody who has experienced ankle injuries in the past. Importantly, any calf strength is better than none. So start small and work you way up gradually. The below video takes you through some variations on the calf raise, which ensure that you are targeting both main muscles of the calf complex

  1. Calf Raise (Straight Knee) – this targets the gastrocs
  2. The Bent Knee Variation – targets the soleus

Start double leg as pictured, using the wall for support if needed. You can then progress to single leg for increased difficulty.

Vid 1

In the above video, we covered off variations that you can complete with a calf raise to ensure that you are targeting both major muscles of the calf complex. ⁠Now we will go through another 2 variations you can utilise to more specifically target each head of the gastrocs muscle.⁠

Vid 2

These variations can be done generally as an addition to your program, or may also form a useful tool in providing more targeted loading with certain injuries.⁠ ⁠ For example, in a condition such as medial tibial stress syndrome (or shin splints) we often want to bias the medial (inside) head of gastrocs, whereas in peroneal tendinopathy we would look to try and bias the lateral (outside) head of gastrocs.⁠ As with the last post all of these can be completed double or single leg. If you are new to the calf raise game, begin double leg and incrementally increase your reps and sets as guided by fatigue. You can then move to single leg, when you are feeling stronger and more confident⁠.

Calf Raise Strength Goals

As always, any strength you can do is going to be beneficial. However the below numbers adapted from the results of a 2017 study by Hébert-Losier & colleagues, can serve as a target to aim towards.


Hamner, S., Seth, A., & Delp, S. (2010). Muscle contributions to propulsion and support during running. Journal Of Biomechanics, 43(14), 2709-2716. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2010.06.025 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. doi: 10.1016/ Image Credit:


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