The quadriceps – your big thigh muscles – receive a lot of attention in the skating world. After all, the quads produce the majority of your power. Some well-informed figure skaters and coaches will also point to the hamstring’s role, and rightly so. Fewer still will focus on the calf muscle. But the truth is, your calf muscle should not be overlooked in your off ice training as it plays an integral role on the ice.
What most people refer to as your calf is actually two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is what you see and the soleus lies underneath it.
The gastrocnemius (gastroc) muscle aids in knee flexion (bending your knee) and plantar flexion (pointing your foot), both of which are essential movements in figure skating. Basically, you are using your calf any time you stroke on the ice. The gastroc is also home to plenty of fast-twitch muscles which is a fancy way of saying the muscles contract quickly which allows for a “burst” of movement propelling you forward or upward. In other words, your calf is what allows you to thrust yourself into the air when you take off for a jump.
Because your calf muscles attach to your ankle by way of the Achilles’ tendon, they will become stronger with strong ankles. Be sure to incorporate ankle and calf exercises AND stretching for both into your off ice routine. It’ll reduce your risk of injury and make you a more powerful forward stroker and jumper in general.