Sexy legs are not the only reason to work out your calf muscles. You need strong calves to walk, run and jump without injury. The strain placed on your muscles and tendons by weak calf muscles can put you out of commission for months. Exercising and stretching these important muscles is the first step to avoiding future pain.
The Calf Muscles
The poor soleus muscle has all its glory stolen by the visible, dual-headed gastrocnemius muscle, but it still plays a vital role in keeping strain away from your Achilles tendon. The lower section of the both muscles connects directly to the strong tendon, allowing you to flex and retract your foot. When these important muscles are weak or tight, the tendon has to compensate for the lack of power. This causes it to work harder than normal.
This painful injury occurs when you overwork your Achilles tendon either by having underdeveloped calf muscles or by high-impact exercises like jogging, running or kicking sports. You feel the pain from this injury commonly in your heel, and it can last for three or more months. After the injury, your workouts should consist of low-impact exercises like biking, elliptical machines and swimming.
Tight calf muscles often cause muscle strain, which occurs when fibers of a tight muscle tear. Think about that the next time you put on high heels as they commonly cause your calf muscles to shorten. The shorter length increases tension when you walk barefoot or while wearing flats. Lengthening rather than strengthening the calves cures this problem in short order.
Remove the Danger
Adding calf stretches and exercises to your daily routine will keep both the soleus and gastrocnemius muscle flexible and in tip-top shape. Most of the exercises and stretches require no specialized equipment. Kicking off your shoes and flexing your foot can keep your calves flexible when wearing heels. Standing on a step or curb with your heels overhanging the edge is the starting point of calf raises, a common exercise used to strengthen the calf muscles.
Lynda Schwartz is a fitness professional who began writing in 2004. She has contributed to "Women's Day" and "Good Housekeeping" magazines, as well as covered fitness and well-being for online publications. Schwartz holds a bachelor's degree in exercise science and health promotion.