Today we are going to talk about the lower leg muscles (the calf and the shin), particularly about the calf (gastrocnemius muscle /ˌɡæstrɒkˈniːmiəs/) and the soleus muscle. Don’t hurry to put away the article, I strongly recommend you read it even if you are sure that you know a lot about the topic. It’s something to study for both men and women!
Before we continue, please answer my question: “What exercise do you perform more STANDING Calf Raise or SEATED Calf Raise?
If your answer was STANDING Calf Raise it means that you have to read the article from cover to cover. If you don’t know in which position the gastrocnemius muscle or the soleus muscle works and which muscle is 2 times bigger than the other, this information you’ll need like the air. Either way your lower leg muscles will remain the same and you will always wear pants covering these muscles from people! Your body must be harmonically developed, it’s especially very important for a real athlete.
Do you know what muscle group is called as a second heart and why? If you are surprised and shocked then this article will shed light on this question too. There aren’t much said and written but to be aware of this information is important, not only in terms of esthetics but in terms of good health.
Let’s discuss it step by step. Why is it important to place emphasis on the soleus muscle? And by no means don’t ignore SEATED Calf Raise. The thing is that the soleus muscle makes up three quarters of all lower leg muscles ¾ “75%” and the gastrocnemius muscle makes up just one quarter ¼ “25%”. Despite the fact that the soleus muscle is under the gastrocnemius muscle, its size determines general muscle bulk and forms an external impression of what your lower legs looks like.
I’ll give another example referring to our favourite biceps: many people train it so hard till they are blue in the face but the muscle doesn’t visually increase in size though it grows. Why!? Everything is simple for those who study anatomy : biceps lies on the surface of the muscle called brachialis , so if you don’t work on it, as your biceps increase in volume they will cave in.
It’s a different story if you regularly perform such exercises as Reverse Barbell Curl and hammer curls. These exercises really build your brachialis that “pushes” the biceps making you proud of the result and showing it to others. But when did you do last these exercises?
The same thing happens to your lower leg muscles: if you don’t train the soleus muscle, you won’t get lower leg muscles look bigger no matter how hard you worked on them.
I won’t tell you much about anatomy because you can always find it online. I just tell you about some peculiarities (nuances) that will be really useful for what and why you do something in terms of these muscles. Why your calves (lower legs) sore even when you perform Hamstring curl; it happens more to beginners and girls in particular. The calves or in other words the triceps surae (/ˈtraɪsɛps ˈsjʊəriː/) ("three-headed [muscle] of the calf") has 3 heads - the superficial portion is the two-headed GASTROCNEMIUS and the deep mass of muscle – THE SOLEUS forms the remaining head.
Both of them have different attachments but taper and merge at the base of the calf muscle. Tough connective tissue at the bottom of the calf muscle merges with the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon inserts into the heel bone (calcaneus). The gastrocnemius attaches to lateral and medial epicondyne (to the base of the femur (thigh bone)) whereas medial epicondyne is lower and better developed. The functions of these epicondyles are knee flexion (now you understand why the calves are sore after Hamstring curl) and ankle plantar flexion (elevate the heel). Also these muscles stabilize your body during a movement. The function of the soleus muscle is only to raise the heel (known as ankle plantar flexion).
Now it’s time to discuss the nuances of training and some myths.
More often the lower leg muscles don’t get enough training. Just remember how many sets and exercises you do when you work out on your chest or biceps and now you remember how many sets you do working out on your lower leg muscles and when?! Whatever strange it may seem but small lower leg muscles can be not only because of poor training but also because of excessive training. The most often reason is an improper training.
There are some coaches who you can also blame for not growing lower leg muscles because they claim that these muscles, abs and forearm are special kind of muscles and differ from the other muscles so they need special workouts. Despite the fact that lower leg muscles’ work is immense, the correlation of oxidative muscle fibers and glycolic fibers are almost the same as in the other muscles of your body. So there is a scientific rationale to that fact and speaks for itself that you need to train lower leg muscles from the same perspective as you train the rest of your muscle groups.
Anatomically, the gastrocnemius muscle works at its maximum when your knee is straightened and the soleus muscle – with knee bent. Keeping in mind this information and that fact that the soleus muscle is bigger and makes your lower legs
muscles looks more bulky build your workout split. Plus remember that the soleus muscle requires a big amount of work, the same with your triceps and biceps.
The majority of people train lower leg muscles doing many reps and totally forget to train them performing just a few reps with bigger weight and that is the main mistake because it must be exactly opposite. Of course high reps are needed but you have to place emphasis on low reps and bigger weights.
There is no need to train lower leg muscles more than once in 3-5 days because you might overload them but don’t do it less than once in 5 days.
Pay your attention to classic cardio which burns up your muscles more than fat and if you have problems with gaining muscle bulk and you are keen on classic cardio, forget about your muscles growing.
When you perform seated or standing calf raise you should keep up with this rule which will help you to load either the soleus muscle or the gastrocnemius: raise your feet only with the help of the big toes, focusing on it in your mind’s eye. What about your feet placement: I recommend you to hold them parallel to each other or slightly shift your toes inward when you work out with big weights. So, it will help you to avoid injuries. When you perform high reps or you have stato-dynamic workout then you can experiment with your feet placement.
When you start treating your lower legs muscles with the same love and devotion as your chest or biceps and trying to make them stronger, only then they return your love back through the increasing of muscle bulk.
If you have convulsions it tells you about overworked muscles. Muscle spasms are an evidence of possible shortage of macro nutrients and nerves stimulation, in addition venous and arterial circulation disorders.
Choosing the same training program as well as the load or you endeavor to overcome excessive load will lead you to a serious injury. That’s why you have to keep up with periodization and cyclical load.
I recommend you to train the lower legs in such an order: one workout you devote to the soleus muscle and another one to the gastrocnemius muscle and “kill” the soleus with high reps or using stato-dynamic. The third workout start with the soleus muscle and train it using low reps and big weights and after work on the gastrocnemius performing high reps. The main thing is put an emphasis on the soleus muscle and change every workout according to periodization, training each type of muscle fiber one after another.
Everything that we have discussed in this article was about aesthetics, so now let’s
talk about training the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscle in terms of saving and strengthening your HEALTH.
These muscles are called THE SECOND HEART by doctors as they maintain good blood circulation. If the majority knew what we were previously talking about then this information will be new for you and even a kind of revelation.
Lower leg muscle’s contraction, the soleus muscle in particular, compresses the thin-walled veins, helping the blood to come back to the heart. It happens due to the fact that veins have special valves which prevent the blood moving through the veins from the heart against the effects of gravity.
In conclusion we understand the importance of training lower leg muscles, the soleus muscle in particular. Everybody should train these muscles and especially athletes. An ordinary person can train them at home, walk more as possible, and avoid an elevator so that will be also a good workout for your lower legs.
Walls of arteries are thicker and more elastic than veins but blood comes back to heart through the veins. That’s why it’s so important to train muscles which contribute towards blood moving though the veins. The muscles of lowers legs are so important that are called SECOND HEART. When we are standing or walking, the heart provides blood circulation through the arteries where the soleus muscle helps to return blood back to the heart.
When the vein muscle pump stops working properly, the heart can’t create good blood pressure and as a result is a shortage of nutrients. Only the cardiovascular system provides all body’s tissues with nutrients and oxygen through the blood.
Consequently you’ll get headaches, permanent tiredness, varicose veins, swollen legs (water retention in the legs), dizziness, poor sight, cognitive disorder and also joint and muscle pain.
The best way to avoid it is to train the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscle. But who did get such a piece of advice from doctors?! You are advised anything, even compression garments… to my mind it’s marketing strategy though.
Work out my friends and don’t ignore such small but important (significant) muscles as the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscle.
Hope my article was useful to YOU. Don’t forget to share it on social media!
Author: George Strong
Translated by Karina Alexandrovna