Calf strains are obnoxious. They hurt and they tend to linger. Most short term care guides are useless. This will be the best early care guide to manage a calf strain in the first few days after an injury.
The Best Exercises For A Strained Calf Muscle
Do not use RICE, POLICE, PRICE or any of those useless abbreviations (LINK). Comparatively, when you need to treat a calf strain, you need to strengthen it. To treat and rehab a calf strain, you need to focus on the main function of the calf, plantarflexion (yes the calf assists with knee flexion but that will be addressed in the next phase of rehab). This muscle is almost always strained when trying to sprint or jump.
- Calf Stretch
- Loaded calf raises
Isometrics For A Calf Strain
Isometrics are the single best rehab early on in the rehab phase. They strengthen the muscle without lengthening or shortening of the muscle. This allows the exercise to be very tolerable early on as well as having 0 risk of damaging the muscle.
- Ideally perform this single leg
- If too weak/painful then do them double leg with the intent to get to single leg ASAP
- Hold the position for 10 seconds
- Complete 10 reps
- Perform twice a day, separated by 6 hours
Calf Stretch For A Strained Calf Muscle
This is NOT a static stretch. This is going to be moving the muscle through as much pain free ROM as there is.
- Perform this single leg
- Lower the heel off the step until you feel pain
- Hold this position for 1 second
- Release and go back to start position
- Perform this again and find that painful range again
- As you perform more and more reps, that painful sticking point will get higher and higher and full ROM is established
- Perform 50 reps per session, twice a day
- Repeat for as long as needed to restore full ROM
Loaded Calf Raises For A Calf Strain
Do not progress to this phase until you have full ROM. Strengthening a muscle in a limited motion will result in causing more dysfunction and increasing injury risk. Below are three options pending what equipment you have access to.
- Complete 3 sets of 12 reps
- Increase reps before weight
- Progress from 12-15-20 reps, add weight when 20 is achievable and then restart back at 12 reps
- Calf raises can be loaded with anything
- If you don’t have weights, hold literally anything with weight
These exercises will take you from an acute hip flexor strain to being able to have normal ROM and moderate returns in strength. You are now ready for a traditional strength program to return to normal function.