Contrary to the lack of calf raises that powerlifters do, the calf muscles actually do have an important role within the squat. The calf muscles at certain degrees of knee flexion actually aid in knee extension, but more importantly for the topic today, the calf muscles help to stabilize your control of your center of gravity through plantar flexion. Above are 2 videos (CLICK HERE) of Demetria that are exactly a week apart, with her squatting 253lbs. on the left and 264lbs. on the right. On the left she struggled with allowing her center of mass to shift forward at the bottom, and that resulted in a lot of the shifting back and forth you see during the concentric. Versus on the right, I simply cued her to start with some slight big toe pressure to create a more active foot position and active plantar flexion from the get go. If you scroll to the next video, you can see the difference in her foot position in slo mo and the fairly notable difference in her foot control and maintenance of her center of mass. And if you scroll just another slide further (slides 3 through 6), I really dive into what it means to control your center of mass through active plantar flexion and the role of the calf within the squat.
Then from there, how do you apply this? For me I simply like the cue of some slight big toe pressure in your setup, and I cover this in great detail in my comprehensive guide to foot rooting video on YouTube (CLICK HERE). It does not need to be something that we overly cue, but more so just be conscious of how plantar flexion and the calf muscles can help in regards to stabilizing our position at the bottom of the squat. As I mentioned in one of my stories last week, if you had to choose to bias to the heel or to the toes, I’d likely prefer the toes. Because with the heel, we have nothing that can actively stabilize our position back to midfoot. But when we shift to our toes, we have the ability to stabilize through plantar flexion. Now does this mean you need to start doing 3 times a week frequency calf raises? Probably not (in my case maybe yes, they are twigs) but calf raises likely are a somewhat underutilized accessory movement for powerlifters considering the calf’s role. It’s something I haven’t really experimented with, but I’d be interested if someone has prioritized calf training and actually seen a difference in their squat. My guess is the impact would be minimal, in large part because the squat does strengthen the calf to a degree due to the active stabilization required.