Calf Strain Strengthening Exercises

The following guidelines are for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before starting any rehabilitation.

Plantar flexion with band

This is a gentle exercise to start with using a rehab or rubber resistance band. It is more suitable in the very early stages of rehab as long as pain allows after a severe contusion. Hold a loop of resistance band and use it to apply resistance as you point the foot away or plantarfex the foot.

Start with just 2 sets of 10 once a day and build up to 3 sets of 20 twice a day. If it does not hurt the next day then increase the resistance by shortening the section of band. If there is any pain during, after or the next day then reduce the load or rest a bit longer.

Play resistance band calf muscle exercise video.

Seated calf raise

This is a gentle exercise that will strengthen the soleus muscle which is the smaller muscle lower down. This is also an early stage rehab exercise as it can be done with no weight at all to begin with if necessary. Sit on a chair with the knees bent and lift your heels off the ground as high as possible. Resting a weight on the knees will increase the resistance. Start with 2 sets of 10 once a day and increase a little every two or three days when you are sure there has been no adverse reaction (pain).

Play Seated calf raise video.

Calf raise

Stand on a step with the heels off the back of the step making sure you have something to hold onto for balance. Lower the heels just below the step then raise up onto tip toes. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps provided it is pain free and gradually build up to 3 sets of 20 reps. If after a few days this feels easy, transfer more of your weight on to the injured leg and then go on to single leg calf raises. This exercise can also be done leaning against a wall if a suitable step is not available.

To isolate the soleus muscle the calf raise exercise can be done as above but with the knee bent to 45 degrees which puts more load onto the soleus muscle.

Play Calf raise video.

Step back calf exercise

This exercise is more suitable for the later stages of rehabilitation when the athlete is attempting to return to more specific sports training. The athlete steps back and then in one movement steps back onto the step. This is a more explosive, plyometric exercise related to the specific demands of sport. It works the calf muscle eccentrically during the stepping back phase and plyometrically as they push off. The athlete should be capable of normal running before starting this exercise.

Alternate so both legs are exercised and do not do any more on the good leg than you can achieve with the injured leg.

Play Step back calf exercise video.

Calf Strain

A calf strain is a tear of the muscle fibres of the muscles at the back of the lower leg and can range from mild to very severe.

Calf Strain Rehabilitation

A structured rehabilitation program is important for optimum recovery from a calf strain. We outline an example of a calf strain rehab schedule below for grade 1,2 and 3 injuries.

Calf Strain Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises can begin once the initial acute phase has passed and pain allows. This may be a couple of days or longer depending on the injury.

Calf Strain Symptoms & Diagnosis

A thorough assessment is required to properly diagnose a calf strain injury. We outline some techniques a therapist may use to assess and diagnose a calf strain.

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