Endurance Week – take care of your calf muscles!
The term endurance is defined as the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear. In the context of training, endurance is essentially the ability to put in effort over a prolonged period of time.
During BeFit endurance weeks you will see the sets and reps creep up to higher numbers than usual, with the coaches often asking you to perform 12 reps of an exercise up to 4 or more times. The distances you’re running, the number of sled pushes, the amount of calories to be burnt during each component are increased – meaning the time it takes to perform a component becomes longer. Because of this, your muscles are under strain and load for a longer period of time than normal.
Endurance week almost certainly means extra DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and potentially some particular muscles pulling up tight that you’re not used to.
Today we are going to be talking about the baby cows – our calf muscles! Because I can almost guarantee after the number of sled pushes, box jumps and sprints you’re about to do – your lower leg muscles are going to be pretty tight come Saturdays conditioning.
The calf is made up of two muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus. These muscles work as a team to pull the foot downwards (plantarflexion) e.g. pointing your toes. The deep soleus muscle starts just below the knee joint. The gastrocnemius muscle sits over the top of the soleus muscle and arises from just above the knee. Both muscles join together around the mid-calf to form the Achilles tendon which attaches the calf to the foot at the back of the heel. The calf muscles play an important role when the foot is pushing off the ground when walking, running and jumping, and they help to stabilise the ankle.
Now that you know how the calf works, you can see just how much we use them during our BeFit training sessions. Because of this we want to put measures in place to prevent straining them or potentially even cause a tear.
Prevention is always better than a cure. By ensuring your muscles are warmed up before starting any of the sessions (or any form of exercise at that), you are reducing your risk of a calf muscle strain exponentially. Having strong and flexible calf muscles are also vital to preventing injuries.
An example of a solid calf strengthening exercise are standing calf raises. The purpose of the standing calf raise is to work the calf muscle against gravity in order to strengthen them. I would recommend doing 3 sets of 10 repititions 3 days per week.
- Stand with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. Feel free to hold a chair or wall for balance.
- Rise up onto your tiptoes – attempt to stretch up as high as you can. Hold this elevated position for 3-5 seconds and then SLOWLY lower back down to your starting position.
- Remember to keep your knees in line and tracking straight.
- You can progress this exercise by either adding weight (eg holding onto some dumbbells) or performing the exercise with your heels off of a step. Your heels will lower to just below the step height and then raise back to the elevated position. This will increase the amount of stretch and tension in your calf muscles.
One of the best ways to stretch and release your calf muscles is by using the foam rollers in the gym. BeFit has multiple foam rollers available for members use. If you would like to be shown how to correctly roll out your calf muscles please do not hesitate to ask any of the trainers.
Enjoy Endurance Week!
Nick Hunter is a physiotherapy based in Adelaide, South Australia. Nick has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. To book a consultation, click the link below.