One of the most overlooked muscles is the calf muscle. Most of the people do follow a regular workout schedule but neglect calves, but giving equal importance to calves can lead to amazing benefits. The day to day activities such as walking, running, cycling.
The calf muscles do the work for these movements as it provides the initial propulsion for these movements. Most of the people train calf for aesthetic purposes. But calf muscle plays more important role than just to flaunt. Calf muscle is often called as the pseudo or periphery heart because of its very important function which is to return the blood from leg and foot to the heart. Blood flow from the lower body to heart has to work against the gravity, so the contraction of calf muscle builds up an external pressure that propels the blood through the veins to the heart. This is called calf muscle pump.
The calf muscle is made up of both superficial and deep muscles. The superficial muscle includes gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius being a two joint muscle (passes the knee and ankle) and two head muscle is a strong plantar flexor and knee flexor. The gastrocnemius has relatively fast twitch fibers (type 2) than soleus.
Thus, gastrocnemius is used more during dynamic, higher force activities and soleus is more active during postural and static contractions. As the gastrocnemius crosses knee and ankle, the position of the knee during the plantar flexion resistance exercise affects activity of the muscle. At 90 degree of knee flexion, the gastrocnemius experiences passive insufficiency and hence less active. During calf raise exercise keeping knee 90 degree flexed to focus on soleus and zero degree flexed to focus on gastrocnemius.
The most common exercise for calves is seated calf raise and standing calf raise. The more advance exercise includes movements along with loading, such as split stance overhead calf raise, reverse lunge to knee raise (with plantar flexion). The key points to be remembered for development of better calves: don’t train calves daily, it is better to train calves with complete range of motion rather than going too much heavy with incomplete range of motion.