In the last decade the heel (calf) raise exercise has been eliminated from many collegiate and professional team strength training programs. It also appears to be disappearing from many high school strength training programs.
Many reasons are given for not doing this exercise. The most prevalent appears to be that it is not needed, i.e. it does little if anything, to improve athlete’s performance on the field. Also, it takes away valuable time from doing other major exercises for greater strength and power. Are these however, valid reasons for eliminating the heel raise?
To answer this question is necessary to look at the role that the calf muscles play in almost all sports. First is necessary to understand that the calf muscles are involved in all running, cutting and jumping actions. These actions occur in a multitude of different sports ranging from individual to dual to team sports.
For example, in football, soccer and other team and dual sports, the calf (gastrocnemius) muscle is most important for all players who must run. Keep in mind that ankle extension, is one of the main actions used to propel the runner forward in the pushoff. It contributes up to 20% of the total forward force.
In addition, ankle extension is the main action used in the pushoff when executing a cutting action. It contributes as much if not more, force than the knee extension in the cut. Without ankle extension the runner would never be quick or fast in execution of the skills.
Therefore, if you’re looking to increase quickness then you should include ankle extension (heel raises) in the strength training program. Also if you want more explosive power in jumping, then know that ankle extension also contributes substantial force to jump height.
In essence, anytime there is a takeoff or you must execute a pushoff, ankle joint extension plays a major role. Sometimes it contributes great force and other times only moderate or little force. In all cases it makes a worthwhile contribution. Thus you should not eliminate the heel raise from your strength training program.
See Build a Better Athlete for more information.