My theory

Just a little concept off my head…

Gastrocnemius - Dominantly type II white fibers
Soleus - Dominantly type I red fibers.

So training the Gastrocnemius for type I fibers would increase strength and growth of the calf… Increasing the vertical leap, slowing down speed strength but increasing strength speed?
But as the soleus is used soley for planter flexion wether trained for type I or type II would make no diffrence to the vertical leap, but decrease risk of landing injurys?
Also training the tibialis anterior to stabilize the lower leg and Gastrocnemius increasing in strength due to your mind adapting to use more strength from the Gastrocnemius without fear of injury?

Please may i have your opinions on this? I may be totaly wrong. But hey it’s just a theory…

Peter Mundy

I never train calves. They get enough work as it is with sprinting and plyos. The lighter they are in relation to their strength the better.

I know i only train them as synergists as once you obtain certain calve strength level i see no need in training them directly…

But it was really just a theory of the top of my head after a discusion about calves…

The same rationale can be said for the entire body, so why train the body at all (This is NOT my rationale, but I’m playing devil’s advocate)?

Because the calves in particular get a lot of direct work (bounding, plyos, sprinting) and too much can quickly lead to lower leg problems.

This theory has been around before. Why would training high-threshold fibers as low-threshold fibers increase strength? I could see it improving the muscle-cross section but this would be taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back.

You also have to consider if genetically they were designed this way for a purpose? One muscle is (essentially) a stabilizer and the other helps produce movement. Why would you try to change what has worked so well? And why focus on the calf for improving the vertical, you’d be better off focusing on the hips.

I agree completely with your statement. The reason that I posted this was that not training the calves because it can imbalance their relative strength is kind of rediculous. If your calves get bigger, but are unable to produce equal or greater relative force, then you are using the wrong methods of training.

The reasons that runners would not want to train calves leads us back to your comments. Too much of almost anything is bad.

So would it make sense to train the the Gastroc with strength training and consequently speed training (the power conversion happens on the track)

Yes, I agree with you on this point! I don’t think track work alone (bounding, plyos, sprinting) for some beginners will give them enough calve strength on the track! Also, strengthening the calves will also strengthen the shins (strengthening the entire organism concept). It is my theory that strengthening an agonist muscle will also strengthen the antagonist muscle to some degree as well; albeit, nowhere near the 1:1 ratio though. This is where I disagree with many CF followers, I believe that doing some strength work with the calves is necessary, especially for beginners, will prove usefull in less shin splints; however, the reverse side of the coin is that doing to much calve work will lead to problems on the track!

Case and Point: When I was in highschool and college, I did a lot of seated calve raises and was able to do 360-450lbs on the seated calve raise. I never ever had any shin splints in my life; although, I would see a lot of my female counterparts with numerous shin splints and even some of my less physically developed male teammates. Now flashforward 7 years into the future, I start doing a lot of standing calve raises and I am able to do 315lbs on leg and over 600lbs on both legs. I decided to just work on doing standing calve raises on one leg bc I wasn’t able to stabilize my body on both legs at 600lbs; as well, my form was worse on two legs. So after doing standing calve raises for almost a year I noticed some problems I have had on the track. First my achilles start flaring up and this limits my track sessions to twice a week. Next after my achilles stop flaring up, my left calve starts to hurt. It doesn’t hurt like a muscle tear but rather like lactic acid buildup or to much energy being required by the calves? I don’t know the exact reason for why it hurt but I surmise it was the standing calve raises. So after 2 more years I finally stop doing standing calve raises (the year now is 2004). Now 6 months later (Jan 2005) I start sprinting again full time and I notice that after 2-3 weeks indoors my achilles start flaring up again even though I haven’t done any calve work in 6 months. One possibility is that bc I never stretched my calves in the last 3 years that they are overly tight through all the strength work I’ve done on them. So again my track sessions are limited to two twice a week. Eventually after microstretching for somewhile the pain starts to subside with subsequent track sessions. Now fast forward to April 2005, I am able to sprint 3 times a week; however, I noticed that on Wed and Fri my calves seem to be tight and give me the same problems I had years earlier (lactic acid buildup or something). On my friday session I do 3 sets of 4x60 Special Endurance, I notice that my first set is ok but on my second and third sets my calves seem to be tightening up (that lactic acid problem). Finally in my last week of April I am able to complete all 3 speed sessions without any problems related to my calves.

So I guess what I am saying in my little story is that working my calves in the seated position (Soleus) was ok and even helped me avoid shin splints however, working my calves in the standing position (Gastrocnemius) caused me many problems on the track;one of which, was the achilles/calve tightness and consequent flare ups.

Could you expand on the bold please? Which is which?

I hate to use these terms because sometimes they get overemphasized, but essentially the soleus is responsible for stabilization [tonic] and the gastrocnemius is responsible for joint movement and force production [phasic]. The fiber-makeup of these muscles correlates with these abilities. The soleus is also nearly 3 times the circumference of the gastrocnemius so training the soleus for hypertrophy works fairly well and may give a little push-out look to the gastrocnemius (similar to the brachialis and biceps brachiia curl effect).

Good, now which exercise corresponds to which muscle group. Do standing calve raises work the gastroc and seated calve raise work the soleus?

They’re each active to a certain degree in each movement but yes, standing calf raises work predominantly the gastroc. and seated calf raises work the soleus.

A really good pic of the two muscle groups, when they are overlayered and when they are seperated.

So you want the gastroc to be strong and powerful but not hypertrophied for the reasons mentioned in this thread,

So plyo’s and OL would take care of this.

Hmm… I was wondering if the heel-dominated mechanics of the slower paces in distance running could retard the development of the gastroc, even though the soleous is very strong? Could the repetitive impact, and low RFD of 10-12 mile runs, overdevelop the soleous while leaving the Gastrocnemius in the dust?

I do my A-skips, B-skips, light plyos, and everything, just wondering if that kind of an imbalance could occur. And if so, what would happen?

It’s just adaptation so it’s nothing to worry about. The limited extension in the calf from long distance runs will simply make you strong (strength-endurance wise) through that specific range of motion.