Who’s asked, “Why Do My Calves Hurt When I Squat?”
It’s actually more of a common problem than you’d think.
In fact, an extremely high percentage of lifters experience calf pain when they squat.
Does this mean you’re doing something wrong?
Is there a way to fix this?
Allow me to reveal all.
Why Do My Calves Hurt When I Squat?
The main reason your calves hurt when you squat is because the muscles are tight. So, working on calf flexibility, both before and after you squat, will help. You should also make sure that you’re not leaning forward or falling back when you squat, as you’ll need to engage your calves more for stability. Your calves will also be stimulated to a greater extent if you lack flexibility in your ankles or hips. You can also specifically train your calves more often to increase strength, and in the meantime have your heels raised when you squat.
1. Your Calf Muscles Are Tight
The most obvious reason for your pain while squatting is tight calves.
In fact, it’s extremely common for most people to have tight or sore calves a lot of the time.
If you think about it, we spend many hours a day on our feet, so our calves are getting stimulated frequently.
With that being said, there are a multitude of reasons why you may have tight calves.
And unfortunately these can often be quite conflicting.
As an example, if you’re overdoing it in terms of activating the calves you may feel some tightness or soreness.
Then again, if you’re not doing enough to stimulate the calf muscles this can also cause the same issues.
Additionally, having flat feet will also cause you problems with your calves when you squat.
Consider that up to 30% of the population can be affected by flat feet, with 10% of these experiencing regular painful symptoms.
Plus, you may spend time working on your flexibility and mobility, but how much of this do you dedicate to your calves?
So, if your calves hurt when you squat, you may want to consider stretching both the gastrocnemius and the soleus muscles.
And make sure you do this both before and after you squat.
2. Are You Drifting When You Squat?
Something that happens quite often when you squat is that you drift.
By this I mean you may lean forward or fall back.
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This “drift” can be so slight that you don’t even detect it yourself.
Therefore, you may need to either video yourself or have someone watch you while you squat.
If you lean forward or fall back during squats then you’ll immediately engage your calves more for balance and stability.
So, in effect, you could be putting this additional stress on your calves 30-100 times, depending on your squat workout.
There are a few reasons that drifting may occur.
This could be down to fatigue or simply squatting with more weight that you can handle.
However, the most common reason is due to issues with flexibility and mobility.
3. You Lack Flexibility in Your Ankles
I would say that the main issue that hinders good squat technique is ankle mobility.
Basically, if you want to hit a perfect deep squat then your knees will have to move forward over your toes.
This will also mean that your shins should be angled forward.
However, if you lack flexibility in the ankles you’ll find it extremely difficult to hit either of these markers.
In fact, the lower you try to squat, the more your calves are activated to compensate for this lack of flexibility in your ankles.
In truth, the flexibility in all your lower body joints play a huge role in good squat technique.
But, your ankles can definitely limit your technique and will force your calves to work harder than they should.
The Secret to Deep Squats – Unlock Your Tibia & Ankle Mobility
4. You Lack Hip Mobility
I’ve just mentioned that all the lower body joints play a big role in squatting, and the hips are certainly no different.
If you lack hip mobility you’ll generally find it harder to squat as deep as you should.
Something else that is widespread among lifters (and even non-lifters) is tight hip flexors.
In fact, having tight or weak hip flexors will not only limit your squat, it will also impact on various other exercises.
And the problem doesn’t end there either.
Tight or weak hip flexors can impact on everyday activities, as well as being responsible for many physical, emotional, and mental conditions.
Your hip flexors are that important to your overall health.
You’ll typically find that as you approach the bottom of the squat with poor hip mobility you’ll feel a pinching sensation.
Once again, in order to compensate for this you’ll activate the calves for additional balance and stability.
So, in effect, your calves are working much harder than they should be.
5. Do You Train Your Calves?
I did touch on this earlier by saying that calf tightness can be caused by both over and under use.
However, when it comes to strength training, I would hazard a guess that the calves are one of the least trained muscles.
Okay, a pro bodybuilder will spend plenty of time training their calves simply because they want to achieve the look of symmetry throughout the entire body.
However, the rest of us tend to focus more on what we consider the “important muscles”.
The calves are the equivalent of the forearms for the lower body.
But the forearms will get much more stimulation during exercises like deadlifts, rows, and pull ups than the calves will from squatting.
And I’m willing to bet that many of you probably add some forearm-specific training to your routine.
Can you say the same for calves?
If not, it’s probably time for you to start strengthening those baby cows.
Calf Workout – Sore in 6 Minutes
6. Try Elevating Your Heels
A temporary solution to your calf pain is to squat with heels elevated on weight plates.
This will help with various mobility constraints that you may have while squatting.
In fact, placing weight plates under your heels will take a huge amount of stress off the ankle and hip joints.
This means that you’ll find it easier to squat, even with flexibility and mobility problems.
And of course, this will also take the pressure off your calves.
The reason I say that this is only a temporary solution is because I don’t feel you can ignore the various issues that you may have.
You should work on your ankle flexibility.
It makes sense to improve your hip mobility.
Plus, stretching the calves on a regular basis will alleviate any pain that you feel in the meantime.
So, as you can see there are various reasons why your calves may hurt when you squat.
This is generally due to tightness in the calves.
However, you may also be leaning forward or falling back while you squat.
The reason for this is typically due to poor ankle flexibility or hip mobility.
It’s also important to train your calves to ensure that they’re not the weak point in your lower body.
Plus, while you are working on these various issues you can squat with your heels elevated in the meantime.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.