The calf muscle
The calf muscle sits in the back of lower leg.
It starts below knee and extends to the ankle.
It allows us to walk, run, jump and flex the foot. It also helps one to stand up straight.
It consists of three different muscles: Gastrocnemius, Soleus and Plantaris.
It propels (pushes) us forward when you walk or run
The Gastrocnemius forms the bulk of the calf muscle
Not everyone has a plantaris muscle. About 10% of people only have the two larger muscles.(1)
Soleus is a powerful muscle, situated deep to the Gastronemius muscle.
Together with Gastrocnemius and Plantaris, it forms the calf muscle or triceps surae.
The soleus has the greatest physiological cross sectional area (CSA) of the calf muscles and is thought to provide up to 80% of triceps surae force.
In moderate force, the soleus is preferentially activated in the concentric phase, whereas the gastrocnemius is preferentially activated in the eccentric phase.(2) In upright posture, the soleus is responsible for pumping venous blood back into the heart from the periphery, and is often called the skeletal muscle pump, peripheral heart or the sural (tricipital) pump.
The soleus is the most effective muscle for plantarflexion in a bent knee position (Hence called the first gear muscle.(3)
The role of the calf muscle pump in the development and potentiation of CVD has been overlooked and understated in the clinical setting, with much greater emphasis placed on reflux and obstruction.(4)
PAD (Peripheral Arterial Disease)
Studies have shown that individuals with lower extremity peripheral arterial disease (PAD) have reduced calf skeletal muscle area compared with those without PAD.(5)
Atherosclerosis of the arteries of the arms and legs, as well as the aorta, is known as PAD.
The conditions that increase the risk of PAD are the same risk factors that increase the risk of heart attack or stroke(6).
While exercising, the exercising dependent leg displaces blood toward the heart, against a potential gradient.(7)
This makes us understand that calf pump exercises must not be overlooked as it can help to reduce the arterial clogging of blood due to prolonged inactivity.
Watch out for more information on 'Soleus Push ups' on this page!
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(4) The calf muscle pump revisited https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2213333X13002187
(5)Physical activity, walking exercise, and calf skeletal muscle characteristics in patients with peripheral arterial disease https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0741521407003564
(6) Arterial Disease
(7) Muscle Pumping in the Dependent Leg