Strengthening calfs- physio advice needed

Hey guys,

Dealing with shin splints at the moment and as I'm only 17 and very lean my Physio said that surprisingly my calfs don't actually have much bulk or strength at all considering how much running I was doing. She wants them to get 'really strong' before I can try running again so they can support the bone. I've finally found somewhere with someone decent who I really feel knows what they're talking about!

She told me about a month ago to start doing calf raises with weights. I didn't get anymore info than this though apart from to do them on a step, rise quickly, hold then come down slowly. There was no specific weight- just to do 15, 3 times a day.

I don't know whether I was supposed to separate each set by a few hours or straight after each other. Whilst I had a gym membership (which ran out this week) I was doing 3 sets of 15 with 24kg of weight and I found they were burning towards the end of each set which I guess is good? But this was with 2 weights, so I had no spare hand for balance and on my second go fell off the step and whacked my head badly. The heaviest single weight was an 18kg kettlebell so I did the same again but this time I found I didn't get the burn feeling at all. 

Now I'm at home it's hard to find the same sort of weight. If I'm not feeling the burn should I increase reps, number of sets, how long between etc? Is there anymore exercises I can do safely?

She also said that I should do them every day which I was doing apart from weekends- although I thought muscles needed a day off after to repair and build?

How long till I notice a difference? Cheers!


  • I'm not sure you need weights, just do alternate legs, then all your weight goes on one leg at a time rather than being halved across both.

    Stand on a stair with your heels overhanging the back. If you are working your left calf, push up with your right leg, when you're up, lift your right leg and slowly lower your left heel below the level of the step. Do ten and switch to the other leg. You need to feel it on the way down. I wouldn't go for the burn either, just steady controlled reps.

    You can do this any time of day, I do it at home and at work and after a run sometimes.

    It's very gentle. It won't bulk up your calves but it will make the inner muscles work more and balance the work being done by the other calf muscles.
  • I agree if you're not already doing single legged calf raises I would focus on that before adding weight.

    Ideally you shouldn't need  your hands for support. If you're that unstable you might be better not doing them on a step until you've built up a bit more balance. Once you're able to do the full set of single leg reps, then you might want to introduce weight. Personally I would suggest adding weight to a rucksack so the weight is closer to your centre of gravity. The purpose of this is to prepare your single legs to take your full body weight plus additional force from running in a controlled manner whilst holding your balance. 

    It shouldn't be so tough that you need to take days off to recover, but of course do so if you don't feel you are recovering fully. 

    You could also include heel drops as Mr Puffy suggests but unless your physio has suggested them it's probably only an optional extra to do every couple of days to help strengthen your Achilles tendon alongside the calves. 

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