WHAT MUSCLES MAKE UP THE CALF COMPLEX?
The calf muscle complex is made up of three muscles consisting of the plantaris, soleus, and gastrocnemius muscle, often injured, especially in athletes. The gastrocnemius provides the propelling force during walking along with the soleus, both point the ankle/foot downwards, referred to as plantar flexion. The gastrocnemius also bend the knee joint as the muscle ccross both the knee and ankle joint (1). Although, it spans over two joints, the gastrocnemius is not able to exert its maximum power on both joints simultaneously. If the knee is flexed, gastrocnemius cannot produce maximum power at the ankle joint and vice versa .
The soleus - is located beneath the gastrocnemius muscle and as mentioned Its main function is plantar flexion of the ankle and stabilising the shin bone known as the tibia, on the calcaneus, the heel bone. Finally the plantaris - is located in the posterosuperficial compartment of the calf. Functionally, it is not a major contributor and acts with the gastrocnemius as both a flexor of the knee and a plantarflexor of the ankle .
Reduced length through your calf complex has often associated with Achilles Tendinopathy, Calf strains and often seen in patients with persistent heel pain, such as Plantar Fasciitis . So whether your an athlete or juts like to keep fit and active, screening your calf length can be helpful. A common test we use to assess the calf complex is the Weight Bearing Lunge Test or Wall Test, see the video link below.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CALF IS TIGHT?
We would recommend you book in for assessment to establish why the calf is tight, as often there can be weakness of some of these muscles or of some of the other leg muscles. Stretching, especially after activity can be useful and often we recommend strength for the calf complex, which in turn will improve the length of the tissues.
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