Saanichton Physical Therapy Blog

Calf strength in Running and Walking

Calf strength in Running and Walking

Calf Strength in Running and Walking

Running and Walking are both movements that propel us forward, but did you realise that we use a different amount of energy from our lower limb muscles to perform both of these activities?

These differences in the amount we engage our different muscle groups in our lower limb, depending on whether we go for a run or a walk, are important to understand so that you can target your training effectively.

Why is Calf Strength Important?

What you may find most surprising is that both in walking and running our calves do most of the work in our lower limbs, so calf strength is super important to consider in our training. If you want more power in your strides for either running or, walking then spending some time each week on specifically improving your calf strength will definitely help your movement efficiency.

According to research (Novacheck, 1997) when we go for a walk our calves do 53% of the work, whereas when we go for a run our calves do 41% of the work. This is also why our calves are often sore after a walk or run. This can be especially so if we are new to the exercise or have had a break from walking or running for a while. Post walk or running calf stretches and or foam rolling will also help you keep your flexibility in calves.

At Saanich Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic we recommend that if you are going to start doing strength training, it is best to stretch and foam roll your targeted muscles first . Remember each stretch should be held for at least 30 seconds and foam rolling can done for approximately 1 minute on each leg. Now you are ready to tackle your strength training exercises. If you think about it, trying to contract a muscle that is already super tight it won’t be as effective as you will not have as much available muscle length to work with.

Here are some stats on other important muscles groups:

Lower limb muscle use during walking
Hip Extensors – 7%
Hip Flexors – 30%
Hip Abductors – 6%
Knee – 4%

 

Lower limb muscle use during running
Hip Extensors – 14%
Hip Flexors 20%
Hip Abductors 3%
Knee – Quads 22%