How Important is the Calf Muscle Pump? By Ralph Weinstein
Posted July 29, 2021 by Matthew Romans
Most muscles in the leg are considered long muscles, in that they stretch great distances. As these muscles contract and relax, they move skeletal bones to create movement of the body. Smaller muscles help the larger muscles, stabilize joints, help rotate joints, and facilitate other fine-tuned movements
There are three muscle groups that make up your calf. The gastrocnemius muscle is responsible for giving your calf a rounded shape. The soleus muscle is a longer, flatter muscles beneath the gastrocnemius which stretches down your leg. The tibialis anterior is activated when you do activities when your toe is higher than your heel, such as walking up a hill
The scientific term for a muscle pump is known as "hyperemia" which is an increased amount of blood in the vessels of an organ or tissue in the body. Your blood vessels widen to increase the supply of blood flowing in.
There are two types of hyperemia:
Active hyperemia happens when there is an increase in the blood supply to an organ. This is usually in response to a greater demand for blood - for example, if you are exercising.
Passive hyperemia is when blood cannot properly exit an organ, so it builds up in the blood vessels. This type of hyperemia is also known as congestion.
There are several muscle pumps in our body that are needed to transport or pump venous blood back to the heart. The muscle pump in the calves ensures that the venous return to the heart works properly. Every time the calf muscles contract, they compress the veins within the muscles and force the blood to flow upward and toward the heart. When your calf muscles relax, the veins in the muscles refill with blood from surrounding veins. Here too, the venous valves determine the direction of flow and stop the blood flowing backwards.
However, the muscle pump only springs into action when we use our muscles, i.e., while walking or running or exercising. The calf raise exercise involves the basic up-down movement for strengthening calves.
The main type of calf raises include the standing and seated positions. The standing position involves standing on a block and let your heels hang off the edge of the block. Raise your heels so your body weight shifts to the balls of your feet. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering your heels. Perform 5-10 repetitions. At Total Results we use the seated calf raise. The seated calf raise enable you to isolate the movement to your ankles and reduce the stress on your back.