Training calves (gastrocnemius and soleus) is often looked at as an arduous task with minimal yield. Yet there are massive functional implications to including regular calf training is in your arsenal. In powerlifting programming, we get caught up making exercise selections have a direct correlation to building our total, and hey, rightfully so. But just as it may be obvious to program things that are going to make us stronger, it should be equally as obvious to program to prevent things that are going to make us weaker.

Sore knees and bad ankle mobility have been the downfall of many great lifters, and one thing that they both have in common is that both these symptoms can be (at the very least) mitigated by frequent training of the calves.

The calves are shorthand for a muscle group called your tricep surae which includes the gastrocnemius, soleus, and a lesser-known plantaris muscle. The primary role of the group is to move the ankle through plantar flexion. It seems simple enough but there are two major benefits to training the tricep surae group.

1) Training this muscle group ensures that our ankle gets trained through the full range. Most importantly, through the range of dorsiflexion. Which can be a rate-limiting factor in a lot of lifters squatting technique.

2) The gastrocnemius plays a role in supporting the knee along with the hamstrings. The gastrocs’ work with the hamstrings to flex the knee but also limit anterior translation of the tibia on the femur.
So even though calf training may be a chore, it’s something that should become a staple in your training in order to ensure good mobility at the ankle as well as pain-free and stable knees.

Stay Strong,