Thirsty (for knowledge) Thursday: 2 Exercises That Have Helped My Achilles Problems

>> Thursday, October 22, 2015

This post is less "scientific" than most of my "Thirsty Thursday" posts. I just have some info I want to share.

FIRST: When I had my major achilles issues back in 2011 (when I first got "the boot" to wear in bed), I was told by a physical therapist about "eccentric calf raises." I don't even call them calf raises because it's all about lowering slowly, so I call them "calf lowers" in my training log. This is what I was told to do:

- Stand on your toes on the edge of a step.

- Lift up 1 foot so all your body weight is on 1 leg (still on your toes).

- Slowly lower so you go from on your toes, to a flat foot, to your heel being below your foot. Do this over about 6-8 seconds. SLOW.

- Then put both feet back on the step, use both feet to quickly raise yourself back up onto your toes, and repeat the process.

So like I said, it's all about lowering the calf slowly. I usually do about 12/leg, then do the other leg, then do both legs a 2nd time. It takes about 6-7 minutes to do both legs twice like that. This has really helped my heel issues over the years! I've been told my achilles is strong enough now to go up and down with just 1 leg (not having to use both feet to go back up), but I still do them this way. I can/should do them up to 3x/day, but I usually only get in 1 or 2 times.

SECOND: When I was recently seeing Dr. Folske for my overuse calf/heel issues leading up to the Loony Challenge, he mentioned something different yet similar to the eccentric calf raises mentioned above. He wanted me to do a similar exercise, but LOADED up with weight so I would fatigue after 6-8 reps. Ideally (based on my pain and my specific issues), he wanted it to be a "seated calf raise" machine at the gym, but my gym only has 2 different sort of "upright" calf raise machines. He was still OK with me using that.

What the Doc WANTED me to use. (Topless, of course.)

What my gym had to use instead. But I did them with really bent knees
to make it as close to the seated calf raises as possible.

The Doc gave me an interesting theory for why I should be doing these. (And I'm going to paraphrase the Doc's words and hope I get most of it right.) Basically, the stress of doing 2 sets of the heavy calf raises (or "calf lowers" in Steve-talk) is enough to work the muscle a lot, but not to hurt it. That tricks the body into releasing [SOME RECOVERY/FLUSHING CHEMICAL] into the muscle to "heal" it because it was just worked. But you didn't really stress it, so the area is being flushed with a healing compound when no real harm was done that needed to be heal. So it's a good situation for my legs!

He warned to only do this about every 3 days, and it should feel better pretty quick. Sure enough, when I first did this, the next day my legs felt great. I wasn't magically healed, but things felt good! If it's something you'd like to try, give it a shot. These 2 exercises have helped me!

For more "Thirsty Thursday" posts that highlight workouts, body science, and all kinds of interesting information, CLICK HERE.


Jumper 2.0 10:41 AM, October 22, 2015  

By doing the seated raises, you're working on the soleus muscle more, rather than the gastrocnemius. I believe when you're running the soleus is what takes the load (thus also stabilizes) and the gastroc is your mover. Which may be why you are fine for the most part with movement but have that terrible ache/pain.

So, I always try to do calf stretches on a half roller both standing and seated. I seem to do better that way.

Hopefully, somebody with more biomechanics credibility can verify if I understand this right.

And thanks for posting this, it reminds me that I need to get back in the gym and do those seated calf raises.

Unknown 12:06 PM, October 22, 2015  

funny you should mention eccentric calf raises steve, because my coach has me do these, and i cant walk for a good few days afterwards. i do 2 x 15 per leg on saturdays and even this week up to yesterday my calves were still tender! hopefully with time i will be able to up the reps and lower the amount of post raise pain! - kim k. (formerly teta equals booby)

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