Training Calf Strength/Endurance

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  • #18510

    I don’t live near hills so my Z1 workouts are typically on stairs which don’t train my calves so much. Now my fitness has improved, I’ve found, when going out on the hills, that my calfs are often the limiting factor on steeper ground in big boots.

    The most obvious solution appears to be calf raises, but I’m not sure what sort of routine to use. I’d probably aim to do it 1-2 times a week. Should I be looking to train strength (5×5, upping the weight as much as possible), or something more endurance based?

    Applicability to ice/mixed climbing is less important as my goals for the next 6 months won’t have much of that or it won’t be sustained enough to be a problem.

    I did a search and couldn’t find much on this, appologies if it has already been covered.


Posted In: Mountaineering

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    Anonymous on #18541

    Are you doing your midweek stair climbs in boots or running shoes. Mountain boots with stiff soles really place a lot of load on the calf muscles. Try boots on the stairs if you are not already.

    As specific calf strength, again I suggest wearing boots when you do these. Here is an article I contributed to about this subject.

    7 Exercises to Stretch and Strengthen your Calf Muscles


    Anonymous on #18545

    Good idea, I didn’t think of doing that, thanks!

    And good article, I’ll try following it.

    psathyrella on #18550

    At least for me, the discussion of cycling through base fitness –> max strength –> muscular endurance here was really helpful in the context of calf strength. I also find that doing at least a good fraction of workouts not only in boots, but with crampons on (i.e. on frontpoints) is worthwhile. Besides adding (realistic) difficulty in the longer lever arm, it helps acclimatize foot to boot (e.g. toughening heel skin), and provides lots of practice for the (at least for me) quite complicated art of dialing in lace tension just right. Then again if you live somewhere with more readily accessible crampon climbing, this may not be as worthwhile.

    pshyvers on #21128

    Just one thing to add, it’s my experience that calves are like forearms. They recover from load very quickly. As a result to grow quickly they need to be heavily overloaded, and quite often- unlike the big muscle groups like the quads. That being said, the simple change of training in stiff boots will probably resolve the specific issue you’re wanting to hit.

    If you live somewhere that does not have readily accessible crampon climbing, how are you frequently training with crampons on? Is this something like, doing box stepups on scrap wood with an old pair of crampons and stepping onto the front points?

    Zuko on #21294

    here’s a great calf raise worksout:

    Calf Raise Intervals

    jakedev on #23138

    I have a similar issue and the solution may be the same but figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. I have similar calf tenderness (not pain, just soreness) when hiking fast (3-3.5 mph) in my trailrunners, seems to not be an issue hiking steep uphill (quads are feeling it then).

    I’ve noticed that I’ve had to increase my pace to keep my HR pushing the AeT after doing Zone 1 for awhile, so it’s a good problem to have. However it does bring the calf weakness to the forefront.

    Should I just do more calf raise protocols (like the ones mentioned) in my general strength sessions (which I’m already doing), just more hiking, or is there another solution? I’m starting hill sprints soon and ME later this summer if that provides context.

    Sorry if this is redundant but not sure if there is a different solution because it happens with speed rather than gradient.


    pshyvers on #23304

    The managed training answer would be something like, add calf strength work now & convert that strength to endurance later this summer. (You can’t go straight to hill sprints & ME, you need to build general strength first)

    But your calves are probably not all that deficient (unless the soreness is really debilitating) and it’s possible it could clear up easily with a little more fasthiking, after which you would be able to forget about it.

    For me it would depend on how big I felt the gap was. Mild soreness for an hour after, or torture climbing stairs for days after?

    Steve House on #23641

    @sandrock06 sandrock06 the link only works if you’re a paying subscriber.

    depeyster on #23663

    @sandrock06 sandrock06 the link only works if you’re a paying subscriber.

    Strange. I was able to see the link and I am not a subscriber.

    Here’s a different take based on Bill Desimone’s book Congruent Exercise.

    He claims that the biomechanics of a conventional move use a wheelbarro type “leverage advantage simply to put up gaudy numbers without effectively challenging your calves.”

    In this version, you shift your weight to feel the pressure on the metatarsal break (“ball of the foot”); this minimizes any leverage for the calf. The soleus works with any heel raise, as it attaches the shin to the foot. To work the gastrocnemius efficiently, you want to move from “stretched at the heel and shortened at the knee,” to “shortened at the heel and stretched at the knee,” which avoid insufficiencies. If you need additional weight, hold the dumbbell on the side of the working calf.

    Obviously the video is not using a dumbbell. But note the timing of the knee flexion and extension. That is the key, according to Desimone.

    psathyrella on #23664

    @pshyvers oops sorry, I didn’t tick the “follow replies” box.

    Yeah, basically. I have a 2×8 that I lay on the floor against a door frame (to keep it from tipping over, and so I can use the door frame for balance). It’d be super annoying to do year round — at the moment I’m just doing calf raises in shoes at the gym — but I’ll probably start up a month or so before things freeze up in the fall.

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