Monday, July 16, 2007

Time Wasting Machine - Standing Calf Raises

Here is another time wasting machine for everyone to avoid. The standing calf raise. This is yet another machine that gyms have in the weight room just because potential members specifically look for it. Any trainer worth their dollar won't even go near it, let alone put a client on it.

First, the calf raise machine is designed to train the calf group in a concentric manner and to strengthen the action of plantar flexion. This machine has been a common piece of equipment for years. Yet, if we examine the true action of the calf group in gait and function, the calf group actually decelerates dorsiflexion, stabilizes the ankle, indirectly helps to stabilize the hip and assists to accelerate plantar flexion.

he posterior tibialis, soleus, and gastrocnemius, all work synergistically to decelerate dorsiflexion. None of these muscles work independently of each other. When looking at muscle function, all muscles have a tri-phasic action, deceleration (eccentric), stabilization and then acceleration (concentric). To be effective, all muscles need to eccentrically load first, then concentrically unload. Selectorized machines work primarily by concentric muscle action and in one plane of motion. This is detrimental to people who run as this will shorten the muscle group and is opposite of what they require, which is a strong ability to eccentrically control the action of the tibia, ankle and foot. Additionally, these machines also work in a single plane of motion.

When examining different types of muscle fibers in the lower leg, it's been shown that the muscles on the shin are approximately 73% slow twitch (stabilizing muscles) while part of the calf has approximately 49% fast twitch (force and power producing muscles). Because of the different muscle types and various functions, it makes sense to train using an integrated progressive program that encompasses all aspects of training: flexibility, stabilization, balance, strength and power. If all of these components are addressed, the calf muscles will function at an optimum level of performance, the risk of injury is decreased and results will be quick to happen.


Brad "el ZappoMan" said...

Interesting. I've noticed that many cyclists have very large calf muscles. Is this because of some action specific to cycling?

When I cycle, I notice my calves doing more work on seated climbs. Although I'm relatively small myself (5'4" 140lbs) I've noticed that heavier age group cyclists seem to have even more exagerated calf muscles. This exageration seems less pronounced in elite level cyclists as they are probably lighter and simply more muscular throughout the rest of their legs.

Kristin said...

Cyclists do get a pretty heavy calf/hamstring workout, especially with clips. It mimics the same flexion/dorsiflexion action in functional gait movements, but with resistance. It's also a pretty intense stabilization activity when riding out of the saddle or on hills, thus producing calf hypertrophy.