In this article, I’m going to not only show you how to strengthen your soleus muscles, but also explain why it’s so important for runners like you and me to do so.
Soleus is such an under-appreciated muscle, and its neglect often causes significant weak links in the calf complex.
Let’s fix that…
Why Are Soleus Strengthening Exercises Important for Runners?
Over recent years, I’ve come to better understand a common pattern that often presents itself in runners with various lower leg injuries, particularly Achilles tendinopathy and recurring calf strains.
These injured runners often test as having a significant strength imbalance, between gastrocnemius, the biggest of and most superficial of the calf muscles, and soleus which sits deeper and lower in the calf region.
Here’s a quick visual aid:
It often appears that runners who struggle with Achilles tendon injuries and calf strains are also weak in their soleus muscles.
Physiotherapist Seth O’Neill and his colleagues discuss the role of soleus muscle deficit in Achilles tendinopathy further in this paper.
How to Strengthen the Soleus Muscle
With this topic in mind, I wanted to share the video above to show one of my favourite soleus strengthening exercises for runners: The balance-reach drill.
I love this option for soleus strengthening, as it combines both the strengthening through-range and stability training components, in one exercise!
You can simply perform this exercise as a bodyweight drill, or grab some dumbbells to add some additional resistance.
Aim for 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg.
If you have a gym available, you might also want to try incorporating seated calf raises into your calf strengthening programme.
There are lots of variations of the seated calf raise, all of which will strengthen the soleus muscles of your lower legs. The key is to work through a full range of motion.
Aim for 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg, or both legs together (adjust the load accordingly!).
Let me know how you get on!