What To Do When You Have Sore Calves From Deadlifts
April 11th 2019
The traditional exercise for building calves is the calf raise. Load that machine up and feel the burn after 10-12 reps. No machine, no problem. You can load up a barbell or grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and do calf raises there as well. But do deadlifts also work on your calves? What if you get sore calves from deadlifts?
Sore calves from deadlifts
Unless you are a beginner, sore calves are rare when doing deadlifts. Getting sore calves are likely the result of form issues or chronic tightness.
Your calves help stabilize your ankle and knees. As a result, they play an important role in stabilizing your leg while you deadlift. Since you are driving your heels straight into the ground and falling slightly backward, your calves will always be working.
i) Weight is too far forward
One explanation for having sore calves from deadlifts is because when you are deadlifting, the weight is traveling forward. It is hovering around your toe area and not around your mid-foot. This will throw off your balance and activate your calves more. Also, you may notice that you are not able to deadlift your max while having the weight drift forward.
Learning how to push down with your heels and to keep the weight in the middle of your foot will help you tremendously. Lifters will need to understand that when the weight is too far in front of you, this can cause your calves to work harder in order to keep you from falling forward onto your face.
As a response, many coaches will advocate trying to keep the barbell as close to your shins as possible. This is one reason why many lifters get their shins bleeding from the deadlift. They took the advice literally and scrape their shins like cheese. For some people, this may be one of the only ways to break the habit of falling onto their toes when doing heavy deadlifts. By training deadlifts this way, lifters can understand what a good and stable deadlift position feels like.
An alternative deadlifting form is to keep the bar in the middle of your foot. The bar will travel upward in a straight line and you will drive all your weight into your heels. This is the deadlift form I use and it has served me well in getting to a 405lbs deadlift.
Toes elevated during deadlifts
Another great technique cue to really emphasize keeping all the weight on your heels is to do toe elevated deadlifts. Using the 5lbs or 10lbs weight in the gym, place them on the floor so that when you step on them, your toes are elevated. Now, when you go for the deadlift, this will feel unnatural, possibly even uncomfortable or painful as well. You are getting a calf stretch while working on your deadlifts.
Usually, these are some as deadlift accessories to reinforce proper deadlifting habits in all lifters. Lifters also work on their dorsiflexion, another crucial component in lifting that not too many athletes talk about. This is your ability to bend your ankles backward. Dorsiflexion is used for maintaining the stability of your ankle and for providing support for walking, running or any sport.
ii) Beginners in strength training
If you have not deadlifted for a long time or are deadlifting for the very first time, it is quite common to experience soreness in your calves. Because you have not worked out the calf muscle, you are bound to experience some level or soreness and pain. It should be temporary and you will not feel any calf soreness for a long, long time if you continue to deadlift consistently and with proper form.
Staying consistent and do not let your sore calves deter you. Almost every lifter will recover from their calf soreness and you should be ready for the next deadlifting session.
This is one of the many beginner pains you will experience when advancing your strength and size gains. Consider this one of the easier symptoms to deal with since it does not frequently occur.
iii) Chronic tightness
If you do not have proper dorsiflexion, doing deadlifts may be a problem. If you have chronic calf tightness and do not address it, this will cause deadlift issues. One of the most intermediate reactions you will experience is feeling calf tightness and soreness. Because your calves are not properly mobilized, you will feel some level of soreness whenever you do deadlifts.
Obviously, one of the best ways to remedy this situation is to stretch and massage your calves. Do some calf stretches in order to gain some flexibility in the tendons and muscles. Massage your calves so that your muscles can relax and heal themselves.
You need to stretch your calves. Here are some great drills you can do in order to relax your calves and make them more flexible:
Wall Calf Stretch
There are two variations of the wall calf stretch - one is where you are in a lunge position and you keep your back leg straight. You place both hands onto the wall and push against it until your calf on your back leg is being stretched. Hold this for about 10-15 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
The second wall calf stretch is when you place your foot against the wall and push your knee against the wall. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and your calves and will provide a lot of relief if you have chronic calf tightness. Hold that static stretch for about 10-15 seconds. Repeat it for the other leg. Do one leg at a time because this stretch can get intense.
Getting sore calves by doing deadlifts is not an immediate sign that you need to change something. Sometimes, your calves may get sore from doing deadlifts. However, this should not be a common occurrence since you are placing all your foot pressure onto your heels while trying to drive the weight slightly backward.