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The Running Room #2: Calf Raises (With Variations)

Simple strength exercices for every runner.

Your calf muscles are fundamental in enabling you to walk, run, or jump. These muscles support ankle extension and knee flexion, connecting to the heel bone through the Achilles tendon.

Scientific Explanation From Coach Victor Gabriel 👨‍🏫

Strengthening your calves offer various benefits:

  • Improved Running Economy: improves your ability to push off the ground more effectively, increasing your running efficiency.

  • Reduced Injury Risk: helps prevent common running injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendinitis, and calf strains.

  • Enhanced Hill Climbing and Sprinting: uphill running and sprinting is significantly improved with stronger calf muscles.

  • Better Shock Absorption: helps absorb the impact of each footstrike, reducing the stress on the lower leg, knees, and hips.

How to Perform It? 🤸‍♀️

  1. Starting Position: Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, ensuring your feet are flat on the ground.

  2. Execution: Lift your heels off the ground by pushing through the front part of your feet.

  3. Hold and Return: At the peak, hold for a moment before slowly lowering your heels back to the ground.

  4. Repetition: Perform the desired number of repetitions.

Variations 📊

  1. Elevated: This variation involves standing on a raised surface (such as a step or a block) with your heels hanging off the edge. This variation allows for a greater range of motion, intensifying the stretch and contraction of the calf muscles.

  2. Heel Ball Squeeze: Adding a ball between your heels adds an element of muscle activation that focuses on the inner calf muscles. Squeezing the ball throughout the movement ensures continuous tension, enhancing muscle engagement and stability.

  3. Single Leg: Performing calf raises on one leg at a time increases the challenge by doubling the load on one calf, improving strength and balance. This variation can also be done on a platform (4) for increased difficulty.

Tips ✅

  • Perform Barefoot: it improves your foot's tactile feedback and encourages a better connection between your feet and the ground.

  • Cultivate Brain-to-Feet Connection: pay close attention to the sensations under your feet. This conscious effort to feel what is happening beneath you fosters a stronger neuromuscular connection, enhancing your brain's ability to control and stabilize these movements more effectively.

  • Execute Movements Slowly: taking your time with each exercise ensures that you're engaging the muscles correctly, with a full range of motion.

  • Variations: during any variation, ensure that your proximal joint capsules (the base of your feet) remain in contact with the ground. This ensures stability and provides a strong base of support, maximising effectiveness.

Common Mistakes to Avoid ❌

  • Don't rush through the movement, maintain a controlled rhythm.

  • Don't neglect the eccentric (lowering) phase.

Integrations Into Training 📆

  • Incorporate the cal raises into your running routine 2-4 times per week depending on your overall training load.

  • Start with 3 sets of 10-20 reps, focusing on good form.

Arthur's Take As A Runner 🏃

  • Battling with Achilles tendon problems myself, incorporating calf raises into my routine has made a significant difference.

  • The simplicity and convenience of calf raises stand out; it's an exercise that can be performed anywhere, anytime, without requiring a lot of time.

  • As a trail runner, I've found that calf raises have substantially improved my uphill running.

Embrace these practices to get stronger, prevent injuries, and keep defying the law of gravity!


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