The Muscle is named from the Geerk word (gaster) meaning ‘belly or stomach’ and (kneme) meaning ‘stomach of leg’ which refers to the bulging shape of the calf.

We use this muscle to run, jump and other fast movements, injuries of the calf are therefore a commonality in sports such as running, football and tennis. Here we look at what we can do to prevent it…

Where is the Muscle?

The gastrocnemius muscle is a muscle located on the back portion of the lower leg, being one of the two major muscles that make up the calf.

The other major calf muscle, the soleus muscle, is a flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius. Both the gastrocnemius and the soleus run the entire length of the lower leg, connecting behind the knee and at the heel. A third muscle, the plantaris muscle, extends two-to-four inches down from the knee and lies between the gastrocnemius and the soleus.

Common causes of injury

Sudden change in direction when running can cause the muscle to overstretch and lead to a tear, especially when flexing the ankle and extending the knee at the same.

Symptoms of a strain

Some of the symptoms which often occur when straining the muscle can include…

  • Swelling of the calf
  • Pain in the back of the leg
  • Bruising
  • May hear a pop at the point of injury


Some of the most effective ways to treat strains include…

  • Rest – avoid any activities which may cause pain for up to a week
  • Ice – the muscle will help reduce pain and swelling and ease inflammation
  • Compression – can help reduce spasm and swelling of the affected area
  • Elevation – helps to reduce swelling and aids recovery

Prevention #1: Standing Calf Stretch

To help prevent strain or injury, the standing calf stretch is one of the simplest and more durable calf stretches which can help improve muscle elasticity…

  1. Place one foot flat on the floor with your leg straight and knee facing forwards
  2. Using an elevated box or surface, place the heel of your foot onto the surface with your toe pointing upwards and your knee slightly bent
  3. Use your hand to hold the end of your foot and ensure your arm is straight until you feel the stretch
  4. Hold for 8 seconds and then repeat this on the opposite calf

Prevention #2: Downward Dog Calf Stretch

The downward dog calf stretch is slightly more challenging but equally as effective at reducing the likelihood of strain/injury and also for providing improved muscle elasticity…

  1. Place both of your hands onto a flat surface (ideally the floor). Make sure that they are both parallel to one another
  2. Then lift your lower back into the air so you are in an upside-down U-shape but keeping your legs parallel to one another
  3. Then gradually bend one knee and move onto the front of your foot until you feel the stretch
  4. Hold for 8 seconds and then repeat on the opposite leg