The Power Of The Calves
The calf muscles are one of the most overlooked muscle groups in the whole body, especially when it comes to athleticism. Picture any ball or racquet sport for now, and think of your favorite athlete. Got one in mind? How do they move? Do they stand on their heels or the balls of their feet? Here's the answer; all the above sports you imagined are often played at speed and quick reaction times are essential in order to stand a chance of winning, so it is very likely they play on the balls of their feet, the trouble is, when people train for these sports they often train the muscles in the hips, the 'core', shoulders and they focus on grip strength but the ankles and the calves are often overlooked. The calf muscles are made up of the Gastrocnemius (Gas-truck-knee-me-us) muscle and the Soleus (So-lay-us) muscle. The Gastrocnemius spans over two joints; the ankle and the knee and it works to provide ankle plantarflexion as well as knee flexion. The Soleus (the deeper muscle), on the other hand only spans over the ankle and provides plantarflexion. Collectively, they connect to the achilles tendon and work together to propulse you forward and upwards whether it be through running, jumping or accelerating.
In addition to propulsion, they play a pivotal role in absorbing impacts and there is ongoing (currently unpublished) research that is investigating whether these muscles work concentrically (muscle contracts and therefore shortens) or isometrically (muscular contraction without movement at a joint) during sprinting. The theory for an isometric contraction during sprinting is that the stored elastic energy within the tendon generates the power in a similar way to plyometric activity. This is known as the stretch shortening cycle. Anyway, I'm going off topic a bit here so let's bring it back in and get to the point.
Start building your calf strength today for greater athleticism in your chosen sport. If you're wondering if strengthening the calves help in motorsports too then the answer is also absolutely yes! Accelerator pedals, brakes and the clutch all require tremendous amounts of calf strength to control the car optimally, and for bike athletes- you should always ride on the balls of your feet anyway so this speaks for itself. I hope you learned a thing or two from this article and start intergrating calf strengthening into your training regime. Feel free to share this with anyone that you think it would benefit. #zeroexcusesneeded
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