This part of the exercise is overlooked by all runners: Why is the calf soleus important?

Elite runners have strong cardiorespiratory endurance , reasonable running techniques , and good running specific strength , which are the main reasons why they are far better than mass runners.

From the point of view of muscle strength, where is the part of marathon runners that is far stronger than that of general public runners? – It’s actually the calf and ankle.

But this is the part where mass runners either ignore training or don’t know how to train.

Mass runners are now focusing more and more on core strength, hip strength, and leg strength, but often less emphasis on calf training.

In fact, the top marathon runners have very strong calf strength , which not only provides them with a steady stream of power to kick the ground, but also provides a reliable guarantee for effective cushioning and stable support when landing.

For mass runners, without good calf strength, it is difficult to break through the pace bottleneck, and they are also easily troubled by calf and ankle pain. Today, I will tell you why calf training is so important, and how to carry out calf training systematically and comprehensively .

Professional athletes use more efficient forefoot landings because they have strong calf and ankle strength

Studies have shown that most mass runners land on their heels, while most marathon runners land on the balls of their feet . Is it just because marathon runners run faster than average runners?

Such an explanation is incomplete and does not get to the heart of the problem. To be precise, the faster you run, the more forward the landing area, but marathon runners use the forefoot not only because they run faster, but because the forefoot is a more efficient and advanced running method. . Why do you say that? Let’s do a brief explanation.

The curve in Figure 1 depicts the change of the ground reaction force from the heel strike to the sole of the foot leaving the surface of the heel runner. It is obvious that at the initial stage of landing, there is a sharp peak of the ground reaction force , which is not only very large , the generation speed is also very fast.

That is to say, if the heel directly touches the ground, the movement of the ankle cannot be used for effective cushioning. At the moment of landing, it means that the knee joint above the heel will be subjected to a large and rapidly generated force .

This is only the effect of one landing. The continuous accumulation of thousands of landing forces during running will inevitably put a lot of pressure on the knee joint. This is why knee injury has become one of the important causes of the number one injury of mass runners. .

Figure 1 Analysis of the force when the heel hits the ground

Figure 2 shows that the first peak of ground reaction force disappears when landing on the forefoot, because we change the landing pattern and absorb the impact force through the arch, Achilles tendon and calf muscles instead of the heel .

At the same time, we also need to notice that the ramp up has softened, which also indicates that the ground reaction force is effectively buffered.

Figure 2 Force analysis of forefoot on the ground

From the above analysis, it can be seen that the lack of cushioning on the heel will cause the human body, especially the knee joint, to be subjected to a large ground reaction force. In the long run, the force continues to accumulate and superimpose, which will inevitably increase the probability of knee injury. The forefoot landing is conducive to increasing the cushioning, thereby greatly reducing the occurrence of knee injuries.

But what is the buffer based on? Relying on muscle control, what muscle? This is of course the calf muscles .

Forefoot landing has relatively high requirements on the calf muscles. It is difficult to achieve without certain training or lack of calf strength. Blindly imitating the forefoot landing technique can easily lead to plantar fasciitis, calf tibial stress syndrome, and heel pain. Tendonitis and other injuries.

Change the landing technique, the knee injury is less, but other parts of the injury increased, which we do not want to see. In other words, a more efficient landing pattern needs to be matched with greater muscle capacity .

Ankle stability relies on good calf muscles

The calf is connected to the foot through the ankle joint. In fact, except for some small muscles on the sole of the foot, most of the muscles that control the movement of the ankle originate from the calf. For example, the ankle itself does not have many muscles. Flexion, extension and inversion are basically achieved through the calf muscles.

It is conceivable, then, that the stability and flexibility of the ankle depend on the calf muscles .

When the calf muscles are weak or tired, it becomes very difficult for the ankle to land steadily and respond flexibly to the uneven ground when landing. This is why some runners are prone to cramping or ankle discomfort The key to stability – the calf muscles are too weak .

Powerful thrusts rely on strong calf muscles

No matter how strong your core is, how strong your glutes and legs are, eventually these forces will be turned into momentum by pushing off the ground.

From the perspective of the power chain, the power from the trunk, buttocks and legs is transmitted to the calf, and the calf is done in one battle, completing the action of pulling the ground and pushing the ground, generating a strong power to push the human body forward.

Therefore, the calf muscle is not only a very important part of this power chain, but also the propeller of your running . In addition, the long and thick Achilles tendon of the calf has good elasticity, and the elastic force of the stretched Achilles tendon is used. , which in itself generates a certain power.

Therefore, in summary, the calf muscles have the following important roles.

The importance of calf training

The structure of the calf muscles

The calf muscle is also known as the calf triceps. It is composed of the superficial gastrocnemius muscle and the deep soleus muscle. The gastrocnemius muscle starts to the lower end of the femur and crosses the knee and ankle joints. Therefore, the gastrocnemius muscle is a double-joint muscle. , has the effect of bending the knees and ankles (calf stretches the feet).

The soleus muscle starts from the middle of the tibia of the calf. Because it looks like a soleus, it is called the soleus muscle. Since the gastrocnemius muscle only crosses the ankle joint, the gastrocnemius muscle is a single-joint muscle, which only has the function of flexing the ankle.

The gastrocnemius and soleus extend downward to form the thickest Achilles tendon in the human body and insert into the calcaneus. The gastrocnemius muscle is located in the superficial layer of the calf, and the soleus muscle is located in the deep layer of the calf. Why do we talk about the anatomy of the calf muscles, because only by mastering the anatomy can we really understand the problem of how the running calf exerts force .

The force in the straight position is the gastrocnemius muscle The force in the flexion position is the soleus muscle

The gastrocnemius muscle is not fully contracted during running and stretching, and the soleus muscle may be more important

When running, the forward power mainly comes from the force of the human body on the ground. When the human body gives the ground a force that is obliquely backward and downward, the ground will give the human body an equal and opposite ground reaction force.

The direction of the ground reaction force is forward and upward, and this force can be decomposed into horizontal propulsion force and vertical force .

Although some running posture teaching methods emphasize the stage of running and stretching, instead of pushing on the ground to exert force, but emphasizing the lifting and folding of the calf, it is impossible for the human body to violate the basic principles of mechanics.

It does not mean that if you want to exert force without pushing on the ground, you can exert force without pushing on the ground. Even if the lifting and folding are technically emphasized, it does not mean that the force is not exerted without pushing on the ground. Where did it come from? Of course, this article isn’t about arguing about running posture, so let’s move on.

Since the calf has to bend the ankle and push the ground to exert force, which of the calf gastrocnemius muscle and soleus muscle exerts more force, or the same amount? As mentioned earlier, the gastrocnemius muscle is a double-joint muscle. Only when the knee joint is in a relatively straight state can the gastrocnemius muscle be fully exerted.

If the knee joint is in a bent state, the gastrocnemius muscle is actually insufficient. This is called active insufficiency in functional anatomy. The so -called active insufficiency means that a double-joint muscle is in a shortened state at one joint, and it cannot be used in the other joint. fully contracted and shortened.

When running, the calf pushes the ground and exerts force, and the knee joint is in a bent state. Even if the push and extension force is about to kick off the ground and the knee joint is stretched to the maximum extent, the knee joint is still in a bent state, not ours. Imaginary kicking off the ground to fully straighten your knees.

Knee does not fully straighten when running

According to the technical analysis of the top eight marathon runners at the 2017 London Athletics World Championships , the maximum extension angle of the knee joint is 167 degrees when the athlete is pedaling on the ground, which means that even if the pedal is extended to the maximum extent, the knee joint is still in a bent state. without fully straightening.

Kinematic characteristics of lower limbs at the moment of landing and kicking of marathon runners (angles of each joint)

This means that the knee joint is in a continuous bending state from the maximum amount of knee flexion buffering to the maximum kicking and extension force, while the gastrocnemius muscle can exert force when the knee joint is in a bent state, but the force is not sufficient, because this When the so-called “active deficiency” occurs.

The soleus muscle does not have this problem. The soleus muscle is a single-joint muscle. It does not cross the knee joint, so its contraction has little to do with the knee joint, only the ankle joint . The essence of the calf force is the process of flexing the ankle. Therefore, in the process of running, the soleus muscle may be the more important prime mover muscle for running and stretching .

We usually exercise the calf muscles by using the calf raise in the straight position of the knee joint. As shown in the following figure, this action mainly exercises the gastrocnemius muscle, and because the gastrocnemius muscle is not sufficient when the running calf is stretched, so the light It is not enough to train the gastrocnemius muscle. It does not mean that you will not train the gastrocnemius muscle in the future, but that you cannot only train the gastrocnemius muscle, but also attach great importance to the training of the soleus muscle, another muscle deep in the calf .

The straight-knee calf exercise mainly focuses on the gastrocnemius muscles

In any age, good things have nothing to do with money and leisure.

It is always those polished perceptions, eyes focused on everyday life, and hands that work tirelessly to create the most beautiful things.

knees bent

In any age, good things have nothing to do with money and leisure.

It is always those polished perceptions, eyes focused on everyday life, and hands that work tirelessly to create the most beautiful things.

squat against the wall

Supine Glute Bridge Heel Stand

Static heel lunge

Lunge dynamic heel stand

Seated knees bent

Seated Weight-bearing Knee-Cut Stand

16-24 sets of the above dynamic movements, repeated 3 sets, static movements 30-45 seconds a set, repeated 3 sets.


This article starts with why calf training is important and how to train calves. Why can’t you only train the gastrocnemius muscle, but also pay attention to the training of the soleus muscle, etc., explaining the importance of the training of the soleus muscle, not to say that runners will not train the gastrocnemius muscle in the future, but to pay attention to the training of the soleus muscle .

This can improve the specific strength of the calf muscles in a more targeted manner, especially in the stage of calf stretching, the soleus muscle of the calf can be effectively activated, so that the force can be more fully exerted, thereby improving the running efficiency.