Standing Calf Raise Ideal Knee Position?

  1. Standing Calf Raise Ideal Knee Position?

    I am going to ask a question that I should have asked around a decade ago actually. I was always under the impression that gastrocnemius activation was maximum when you perform standing calf raises with your knees fully locked, and this is how I have always done my calf raises. Recently, however, I have tried to perform them with my knees very very slightly bent and am getting better contractions. I am talking about a very slight bent -a movement of your butt downwards less than an inch. (and of course you must pay attention not to lift the weight up with your quads when you start running out of gas in your calves. You cannot do that when performing the movement with the kneed fully locked but could do so when the knees are slightly bent)

    Is my feeling accurate? If so, why would a very slight kink at the knees result in more gastrocnemius activation?


  2. There's really no anatomical or neurologic reason why their would be more gastroc activation with a slight knee bend, so there's no real way to explain what you are feeling. If you feel like you are getting better results this way then keep doing it, even if you don't know exactly why it's working.

  3. Here is what someone from another site has said:

    I think the reason you may feel better contractions in the gastroc when using a slightly bent knee is for a couple reasons.

    One is that from the bottom of a calf raise, your ankle is in dorsiflexion and your knee is extended. That puts the sarcomeres of the gastroc in an extremely lengthened position, thus reducing the potential concentric force (active insufficiency). From this angle, the soleus would end up doing more of the work.

    Secondly, the locked knee position is not a very stable position for the knee joint. It is far more stable slightly bent, and much less vulnerable to a hyperextension. The nervous system will naturally inhibit muscle contractions when it senses joints are in a vulnerable position.

    So, by slightly bending the knee, you provide more stability to the joint, which allows for greater strength. At the same time, the bent knee increases the tension potential of the gastroc, and allows it to do more of the work. This would be especially important during the "turnaround," the very bottom of the rep, which exposes the muscle to the most stress. During a locked knee rep, the gastroc is in passive insufficiency during the turnaround and, so your soleus is bearing more of the load. With the bent knee, you've freed up the gastroc to contribute to the movement a lot more.

  4. That's an interesting thought and there may be some merit to it. Keep in mind that this "passive insufficiency" they are talking about would only be in the very bottom of the ROM, once your heels start to move up even a little bit you are back at a muscle length where there would be plenty of sarcomere overlap. It would be interesting to get some EMG data to see if there is actually greater electrical activity in the gastroc with a bent knee vs. straight knee.

  5. OK, update: I performed a quick calf workout of two sets of calf raises (standing) after my chest and back training today. I did both sets with the knees slightly bent from the first rep until the last and used my regular poundages (whereas previously I was just experimenting with the bent knee position for a few reps per set or just light weight).

    The difference was tremendous!!! Much much harder workout and much more of a burn. It was just excellent. I felt the burn in the heart of the calves, whereas before my whole lower leg area would tighten up. I guess it is true that previously the soleus was taking over some of the workload. My calves burned just like they used to when I first began doing calf raises many many years ago when I started training with weights. I will experiment further and report more but the difference is unmistakable. Try and see guys and please share observations...



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