Calf Strength.

Before ya’ll go posting links to previous threads please read through carefully.

I know that there is a rather strong opposition on this forum to performing calf strength development which isn’t drill or running based, however this conflicts with the point of view that training should be tailored around the athlete, not rules.

Although, as pointed out numerous times in this forum and in TFS manual, there is significantly less power generated at the ankle when compared to the hip, isometric calf stregth is vital for the realization of the power produced at the hip by the prime movers around the hip. There is no better illustration of this is than the posterier view of Ben starting at Seoul: Compared with the athlete in the lane next to him (semi-final) there is almost no eccentric action by the calf, the foot does not collapse at all, allowing Ben to utilize all the power generated at the hip for force production at the ground.

If for some reason an athlete, despite any amount of running, drills and plyometrics, does not develop this adequately, what do you do?

Do you seek an alternative means to develop the required strength?


Do you keep doing what you are doing and hope it will develop, because you dont do specific calf work?

Different athletes posess different attributes, and need to have training schedules designed accordingly, athletes with a longer foot will require more calf strength because the point where ground contact occurs is further forward from where the force generated by the hip is being placed through the ankle.

Before the issue of having a larger mass at the end of a lever is raised, think about athletes such as Sebastian Coe (63kg +185kg squat) and Jon Edwards (73kg with an alleged 150kg and a confirmed 140kg power clean) who have developed incredible power levels yet not blown out in bulk.

Donovan is an athlete who performed calf work (eccentrically) yet had smaller calves than Ben who apparently performed none.

I think its an issue which is out side the circle of though of most people on here, yet is a very important issue as far as sprint mechanics are concerned and needs to be carefully considered. After all, Charlie did not become the coach he is by blindly following or repeating what had been done by his predecessors.

Do you have any examples of these protocols? I have a feeling my calves could be stronger, and would be interested in trying to develop them. What is the problem with developing them through means other than drills/running? Is it cos the contractions will be too slow, therefore not specific enough to sprinting?

Dazed, I have been thinking a lot about this recently.

What you are describing all comes down to the stretch shortening cycle. By observing the athlete you can see how much “spring” they have. Some athletes never appear to have any spring, some have plenty of spring at low intensities but none at higher intensities, some have spring at all intensities.

However, I don’t think it is something so simple as lack of calf training. It is an issue of synergy.

Sometimes lack of spring at intensity can be caused by an inhibition from a previous injury, e.g. a foot, achilles. The athlete will subconciously cushion the landing and this becomes ingrained, particularly if an athlete is rushing back from an injury.

Sometimes, it IS from a weakness.

Sometimes it is from tension.

Sometimes it is from bad mechanics.

Sometimes the weakness comes from the bad mechanics.

Sometimes the bad mechanics is from the weakness.

Sometimes, a weak foot from incorrect shoes will be the weakness. The weakness of the foot will mean that the calves can’t work properly when sprinting. No matter how much eccentric calf work you then do, it won’t transfer to the track and may exarcebate the foot weakness and cause foot injury.

There’s lot of random thoughts there but I’m trying to illustrate that sometimes the problem is not what it seems. We have finite reserves of time and energy and it is so important to utilise that time and energy wisely.

This is one of the toughest parts of coaching.

The moral, get all the facts (including historical) think, think, think again… and again… then act.

If, after all of this then calf strength alone is the overriding issue, decide how to train it most effectively and in an integrated approach.


I would prescribe calf raise if I thought it was necessary. It wouldn’t be the first thing I would do though.

I do standing and seated calf raises in gym during GPP and walking on toes during season. Volume is low

why not try Romanian Deadlifts onto toes? works the whole posterior chain in unison from head to toe.

You can do these explosively too.

powercleans/snatches/pulls all work the calves in a dynamic way.

The need for a calf “program” is directly related to the eed for more calf strength. In other words, it should be individual- Ben was not deficient there! As for the program- how many achilles and calf injuries have there been?

I used to do calf work before I knew anything about sprinting and my calfs never changed size. I would focus more on the soleous. What about another taboo on this website which is bicep curls. Is it true ben performed these just to look good. Couldnt this add to the overall upperbody strength of a sprinter.


im not a sprinter or a coach, but i love arm training! i do 60 minutes every friday on bis, tris and forearms. it serves almost as a weight room recovery day for me and it the only time i feel “the burn” all week. i get slammed about it all the time, but i dig it, and so do the chics! it doesnt have much application to football, but i figure it cant hurt that much to have an extra few lbs that close to axial skeleton (as opposed to the calf that is alot farther away).

other side, same coin: i use to have pretty big calves and stopped do any calf work after being reminded of what you stated above, when i started hanging out on this site. as a result i have lost a lot of size in the lower leg, doesnt look as freaky, but it looks alot faster…and really, whats cooler than being fast.

Originally posted by CoolColJ
why not try Romanian Deadlifts onto toes? works the whole posterior chain in unison from head to toe.

You can do these explosively too.

powercleans/snatches/pulls all work the calves in a dynamic way.

I think you missed the point Col. It was referring to calf strenght in an eccentric/isometric strength, which niether of your suggested lifts would address.

Originally posted by Dazed

I think you missed the point Col. It was referring to calf strenght in an eccentric/isometric strength, which niether of your suggested lifts would address.

Ok well jump squats would help then :slight_smile:

Charlie if you found a sprinter was deficient in the calves what exercises would you reccomend to strengthen them?


I fit this to a “T”

previous achilles tear after high-school. (Rehabbed and PB’d since though)

And severe plantar fac. about a year and a half ago (95% recovered)

I have incorporated calf raises in my routine (nothing too heavy 6 sets total) and have found an improvement.

In my case injury definitely affected my calf strength and subesquent running.


I think Charlie may have been referring to a particular program that has an emphasis on calf work resulting in this sort of injury.

Its funny that this post came up again, as ten months after my own post, I can say that a carefully progressed plyo program works rather well for correcting lower leg issues. :slight_smile:

ahhh I see.

My injury was from the soccer field. Running down the wing went to take a shot and ended up wiping my left achilles.

I had an achilles rupture too, about 6 years ago, and my left calf muscle has never fully regained equal strength to my right, which is causing all sorts of problems. My left foot is smaller too! I noticed this when I bought a pair of slip on dress shoes. One shoe almost falls off my foot when I walk while the other one fits perfectly. I had to buy an insert to correct the imbalance. Any suggestions on how to correct this imbalance? I’ve been working the weaker calf harder for the last 6 years but it seems as if it never gets any stronger. My ART guy said I may never get it back to equal strength. :frowning:

To rehab some minor achilles tendonitis I had a couple of months ago, I began including a set of slow eccentric calf raises (bodyweight only) into my dynamic warm-up. This cleared my problem up very quickly. My point is that you could include some light calf work in your warm-up to address needs for that specific area, while not waisting a lot of time on the area.
For training the ankle to be able to absorb force and not collapse, maybe Jay Schroeder’s low squat foot jumps would do the job.

I use ankle jumps for that :slight_smile:

At least for me they seemed to have piled on a lot of calf size, just from the jumping on my toes, oh well, what can you do? :stuck_out_tongue:

are the low squat foot jumps off flat feet or toes?

on balls of feet, and bounce up and down moving your legs with hip flexors. Knees are about 90 degree flexed

thanks. What kind of frequency/volume? As a warm-up before 2 lower body workouts a week?