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Covid-19 to 5k. Strengthening the calf. Written by: Lewis Stolz, Physiotherapist

Updated: Apr 15

Close up image of a running shoe on a male that is walking

Maximal strength

While we’re running, our soft tissue structures endure a significant amount of weight. One of our calf muscles, Soleus, withstands 6-8x our own body weight when we run, even at low speeds. Soleus is also responsible for between 50-75% of our total propulsion, so it is essential that we strengthen them to prevent injury and become more efficient with our running technique. If you haven’t ran 5km before, this will help prevent running related injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendon related injuries, lateral ankle pain and of course, calf pains and strains. Exercises to improve calf maximal strength include:

· Bilateral heel raises with a bent or straight knee

· Single leg heel raises with a bent or straight knee

· Heel drops off a step

· Single leg standing

Maximal strengthening exercises should start as being slow, controlled repetitions pushing to near failure. Begin with 2-3 sets and allow at least 1-2 mins between sets. If you’re just starting, the rest time should be even longer than this.

Reactive strength

When we run, we have only one leg on the ground at any given time and our muscles when activated upon landing, have to go through a cycle of stretching and immediately shortening which creates a spring-like effect for propulsion forwards. This is called the stretch shorten cycle, and the more effective this cycle is, the more efficient our running technique becomes. Examples of reactive strengthening exercises for the calf include:

· Leaping or hopping drills

· Skipping

· Depth jumps

· Squat jumps

Reactive strengthening SHOULD NOT be done without a sound foundation of maximal strengthening first and is only indicated to those with a good knowledge of leg exercise and have been strengthening for several months, most likely those who have been regular at the gym.

Irrespective of what level of strengthening you have, it is important to optimise your strength to prevent injury, just be careful not to create one in the process. The Physiotherapists at In Stride have a wealth of knowledge to assist you on your journey to 5k!


Lewis is currently working out of both our studio on Union Road as well as out of the clinic at the Leisure Centre. You can book an appointment with Lewis or any of our experienced practitioners at In Stride by calling our reception team on 9372 8091 or online at

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