3 steps to building your calf strength

The calves may be a small muscle group, but they have a big job – bigger, proportionally speaking, than the glutes and thighs when it comes to generating force, according to new research. The force required by the quads to run represents around 63 per cent of their maximum capability. For the calves, the figure is 84 per cent. ‘Good calf strength is my number one non-negotiable requirement for runners,’ says physiotherapist Alison Rose. Rose says runners should be able to handle three sets of 25 single-leg calf raises with a bent knee and a straight knee at the end of a run. ‘You should be able to go to full range (determine this by doing a rep with both legs at the same time) without shaking or wobbling.’ Struggling? Follow Rose’s guide to building lower leg strength with the three calf raise variations below.

1/ On the flat

Double-legged heel raises on a flat surface are your starting point. Do them first with the legs straight throughout and then with the knees bent throughout (so you’re ‘rolling’ forward as you lift the heels).

Aim for 3 sets of 20 reps each. Build to 40 reps.

2/ Halfway house

Progress to single-leg raises using a step: have your support leg’s foot on the next step up, with 30-40 per cent of your body weight on it, while you perform full-range raises with the other leg.

Aim for 3 sets of 15 of straight leg/bent leg raises. Build to 25 each side.

3/ Full raises

You’re ready for single-leg raises with your full weight on the working leg. Start with 3 set of 15, building to 25 each side. Add challenge with a barbell or weighted backpack (aim for half your weight).

Do 3-5 sets of 8 reps, straight leg/bent leg.