The Soleus muscle. Heard of it before? Not too many people know much about it. It’s a lower leg muscle deep to the more common lower leg muscle, the Gastrocnemius. The soleus is a powerful ankle plantarflexor and important in endurance sport athletes and explosive sport athletes.
It can be related to Achilles tendinopathy. Granted I don’t believe there’s ever a single cause for injury and believe it’s usually due to a variety of factors, where some factors play a more distinct role in injury than others. So if we’re talking about achilles pain, lower leg pain, and to a lesser extent foot pain, the Soleus is a muscle you should consider.
So when I’m looking at lower leg injuries varying from acute to chronic, I like to take a 3-step approach to it, in the following categories:
Strength Component: Once we get mobility back into the joints, by working the muscles, we have to strengthen it and make you stronger. Two more non-traditional exercises I like using are single leg sliders and loading exercises. That’s not to say you can do calf raises and toe walks!
Single Leg Loads: This is a hybrid mobility and strengthening exercise. The big focus here, is making sure your movement is through the ankle and knee and not the hip and knee. We want to load the soleus, which is why are load leg has a slight bend in it. Remember to not only work the sagittal plane (forward and backward) but to work the frontal plane (side to side).
Don’t ignore the Soleus! Next week, we’ll work on another common injury in runners!