5 Variations of the Calf Raise for Ankle Strength
Written by Dr. Matt Wiest, DC
Most of the time ankle sprains are a product of 2 major factors:
- Unpredictable movement or blunt force trauma due to an accident or in sport.
- Poor neural input and muscle activation patterns in the lower extremity.One of these we can directly control, and the other we cannot. Lets focus on what we can control (#2) so we can be prepared for what we cant (#1).
The lateral ankle complex is the most commonly damaged of the ligaments in the ankle due to excessive inversion or “rolling out” of the ankle joint. This complex is made up of three ligaments, anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular, and posterior talofibular. Covering the lateral ankle complex is the peroneal muscle group, the peroneus longus and the peroneus brevis. The peroneus longus originates from the lateral side of the lower leg on the head of the fibula and runs under the foot and attaches to the first metatarsal and medial cuneiform. The peroneus brevis originates off the lower 2/3 of the fibula shaft and attaches to the fifth metatarsal on the outside of the foot. These muscles are innervated by the superficial peroneal nerve and together the muscles evert the foot.
Why inversion sprains?
Most people are dominant in ankle inversion, meaning their ankle evertors are being used less. This is why inversion sprains are much more common especially in activities with excessive lateral movements. “If you don’t use it you lose it” might not be too far off the truth when discussing muscle memory and movement patterns. If the peroneal muscle group is not getting utilized properly, it makes sense to re-establish those neural pathways through precise movements. Whether you have chronic ankle sprains or not it is important to maintain independent movements, for each independent movement serves a purpose in global movement.The following are 5 variations of a calf raise that will focus on improving strength in the ankle joint, re-establishing neural input for the ankle evertors, minimizing chronic ankle sprains and improving overall athleticism.
- Aim for the coin – place a coin on the ground and drive your large toe through the coin when pressing up into your calf raise. This will allow the great toe to plant and will force the peroneus longus to activate. Make sure you are supporting yourself with the opposite arm.
- Band resisted plantar flexion upright – put a heavy resistance band flat on the ground and have it weighed down by 2 heavy Dumbbells leaving about 6-8 inches between them where the flat resistance band will go. Put your foot underneath the flat resistance band and press up into your calf raise while supporting yourself with the opposite arm.
- Thrust ups –Begin with your leg straight, and make sure the opposite arm is supporting you. Thrust up as high as you possibly can, the second your foot hits the ground thrust back up without bending your leg.
- Unstable surface – add an element of instability by changing the surface for the rehab exercise. Since it is a one legged exercise, you won’t need to change much in order to add to the instability. Start with a soft mat or folded towel, and eventually use a foam block, or stability board.
- Lateral force – with a lateral band, stress the ankle lateral in order to force the first met to actively plant itself forcing the personal muscle group to fire. Hope you enjoyed the post, feel free to comment with any questions for feedback below.