The calf –  A common area to have aches/pains.  

The soleus – An often neglected muscle. 

Many people miss out on a key calf muscle when training.  This can contribute to reduced flexibility, strength, and endurance; while also feeding into common active injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and achilles tendinitis.  

Brief Anatomy/Kinesiology Overview:

The calf is made up of 3 muscles. However, 2 of them do the bulk of the work – they are the gastrocnemius & soleus muscles. These muscles converge into the thick achilles tendon that attaches to the heel.  When activated, the ankle goes through a motion called plantarflexion (pointing down).  This is a key muscle complex required for walking, running, jumping, and pushing on the gas pedal. The gastrocnemius is the more superficial of the two, and it crosses both the ankle and knee joints. The soleus is deep to the gastrocnemius and it only crosses the ankle joint.  

Due to this anatomical setup, the soleus is further isolated and loaded while the knee is flexed, as the gastrocnemius is placed on slack. In order for us to train the soleus with necessary demands for adaptation, we must perform specific calf exercises with the knee bent. Below are a few specific exercises to help maximize the flexibility, strength, and dynamic control of the soleus. There are many more exercises to train the soleus for power, speed, and dynamic control – but this is a good list to get started toward building the functional capacity of the soleus. 

The higher the capacity of the soleus, the less likely it is to become injured. Injury occurs when the demand placed on the tissue exceeds the capacity.  In short, get strong and stay strong.  And, don’t forget about the soleus!

Watch the video below for a few exercises to start working on the strength of your soleus.

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