Soccer is one of the most intensive sports for the lower body. A strong core, lean quads, and bulky calves are the signature mark of a soccer player.
Running about 7 miles on average three times a week is the norm for a soccer player! And not to forget, there’s jumping, sprinting, body-pushing, and shooting for most of the 90 minutes of play.
Besides being one hell of cardio, a soccer game conditions the lower body the most. Strong quads, lower back, and calf muscles make a player light on his feet. And naturally so, more in control!
Though every muscle group is as important as the other for soccer, the calves make a peculiarly stronger impact on a player’s physique than others. Big and strong calves are always the trademark of a power-shooter in soccer.
Roberto Carlos, Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, and many other legendary free-kick takers have one thing in common, rock-solid thick calves!
But why so? Why do soccer players have big calves, and how do calves help in soccer?
How Do Calves Help in Soccer?
The most prominent ways muscular calves help in soccer are by improving sprints, preventing injuries, and enhancing stability. But to wrap your head around that in detail, you first need to know the function of calf muscles.
The calf muscles pull your ankle up, which is a critical movement in walking, running, jumping, and shooting—all very frequent movements for a soccer match.
And considering the two muscles have to pull your body weight for 90 minutes straight, calf strength makes a big difference!
Bulkier calf muscles allow you to handle your weight much better. And more specifically, it benefits you in the following ways.
Though most of the injuries result from an opponent’s naivety or vendetta in a tackle, some of them are self-inflicted.
Ankle sprains and shin splints are some examples of these self-inflicted injuries. And these are usually a sign of a weak physique. More specifically, weak calves!
If your calf muscles are not conditioned to propel your body weight during the demanding soccer match, you’re very likely to pull a muscle as well.
Well-conditioned calves substantially reduce your chances of injury.
Since more muscular calves can handle your weight much better, they can also provide the support your ankle needs at awkward placements.
More so, well-trained calves also have a higher range of motion. A range of motion is how far a joint can open or close from its rest position.
And seeing how you’re frequently required to plant your foot in uncomfortable positions while taking a kick or throwing a tackle, a higher range of motion gives you more control on extreme angles.
And more control of your body weight and posture translates to fewer injuries.
Improving Sprint and Acceleration
Sprints are another vital element of a soccer game. Especially during a counter-attack when there’s an open field to outrun the defending players.
Now running and sprinting works most of the muscles in your body. You vigorously use your hands to counterbalance the push off the ground. And flex your core tight to keep a running posture.
But the real work is put up by the lower body. And it’s the calves that give you the much-needed push to lift off the ground and move forward.
So, stronger calves help your sprints in two ways during a soccer game.
Primarily, they boost your acceleration by providing more explosive force with every push. And secondly, improve your stamina to keep pushing yourself to the limit for long.
Both of which make monumental differences in a professional match. For example, there’s Gareth Bale outrunning his opponents quite often to score goals.
And Leo Messi’s insane acceleration to get away from opponents in the blink of an eye is no new wonder either!
Building your calf muscles will definitely improve your sprint, acceleration, and general running. All of which will help you become a better soccer player.
Ankle Strength and Stability
We’ve talked about how stronger calves help prevent injuries and how they make you run faster. Now, to get into the more advanced benefits of calf training for soccer, let’s see how it impacts your stability.
Unlike sprints, your stability matters the most during ball control.
When you’re competing for an aerial ball, absorbing a strong shoulder tackle, or making quick moves to get away from defenders, your ankle strength and stability take on a key role.
Besides helping you propel off the ground, your calf muscles also help bend the knee for a smooth landing.
The stronger your calf muscles are, the less of an impact or imbalance you feel when hitting the ground after jumping for a header.
And especially when you’re going for fancier ways to score goals.
Whether you talk about Rooney’s fantastic bicycle kick goal or Lewandowski’s side volley against Wolfsberg, neither of those are possible without ankle strength and stability.
The stronger and more stable your ankles are, the better your position for jumping and starting a sprint. And there’s no other muscle group that impacts your stability as much as the calves do!
Support stronger kick power
It is no coincidence that the best free kick-takers have the bulkiest calves. The stronger your supporting leg is, the more stable you are at taking a shot.
You kick the ball in a soccer game from multiple angles and positions. And all of the angles require a solid positioning by the supporting/planted foot.
Also, you need stronger calves to chamber your shooting foot high and release it with the max swing at the right time.
Though you still may get away with a technique for a few basic shots with weak calves, you won’t be able to go anywhere near advanced shooting positions.
Soccer kicks like a knuckleball shoot, bicycle kicks, and volleys need explosive energy to lift you off the grounds.
And seeing how you’ll be lifting off with only one foot on the ground for most of the advanced shooting techniques, strong and muscular calves prove to be essential.
So, to play soccer professionally, you must have muscular calves to try a variety of different shots at the opponent’s goal.
You don’t always get the ball at your feet for a tap-in. And with a limited variety for your shooting arsenal, you won’t make much of a difference for your team in striking.
Are Calves Important for Soccer?
Soccer is an exhausting sport for your feet. You need to generate explosive power and keep doing it for long durations.
And if you can’t get your feet under you after running a couple of miles, you won’t get much room to improve as a player.
The entire lower body strength is vital for soccer. But to talk specifically about your calf muscles, there’s no way you can get around the pitch string-bean-looking calves!
They are the most important critical muscle group that gives you strength, speed, stamina, and stability.
Though other muscle groups help support your movements, the calf muscles directly impact your point of contact with the ground.
And it is for that reason that the calves’ importance in soccer can never be ignored!
Looking at a soccer player’s calves makes us all wonder about the weight they can lift with that lean beef!
But those rock-solid calves are less of a weight-lifting miracle and more of an extensive cardio routine showing up.
Since the entire movement during a soccer sport is experienced on your feet, it is naturally the most worked muscle.
And so, working on your calf muscles naturally makes you better at the game as it improves your speed, stability, and stamina. The much-required skills for a soccer game!
You can develop calf muscle strength by regularly working out. And strengthen them by stretching and rolling a foam over them.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!