Some people love their calves, while others hate them.  Ever see people piling on the weight at the gym (barbells, seated calf press machine, etc.) attempting to build shapely calves?  Or maybe you see people performing calf raises on a box with their feet in, straight ahead and out.  The question has long been this: is there any real benefit to doing them beyond the neutral or straightforward position to get maximal activation and strength gains?

Why is this important?  Well, beyond muscle tone, this question has physiological ramifications with respect to performance and rehabilitation.  Consider, for example that as knee flexion angles increase, the medial gastroc becomes increasingly disadvantaged regardless of the ankle position.  This suggests inherent functional differences in the muscle architecture and activation patterns of the medial and lateral heads of the gastroc.

In a study just published in the March 2011 Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Riemann et al. investigated the impact of all three positions on gastroc activation.  They used 20 healthy subjects (10 male and 10 female) with no history of a calf injury and all had prior resistance training experience.

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