Calf: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT

Calf Definition and Meaning

The calf is made up of muscles and tissues at the back of the lower leg between the knee and ankle. The calf is pivotal in maintaining balance and enabling mobility, helping to facilitate basic functions and movements including standing, walking, running, and jumping. 

The calf consists of two main muscles: the gastrocnemius, the larger and more visible muscle that attaches above the knee, and the soleus, the muscle located beneath the gastrocnemius that attaches below the knee. Both of these muscles merge at the Achilles tendon, working together to extend the foot at the ankle and support the body's weight during movement. 

Calf Exercises

Calf raises are one of the most well-known exercises you can do to strengthen your calf muscles. But don’t stop there: Exercises that strengthen all the muscles of the leg and ankle build support around the calves. When your lower body is strong, your calves are less susceptible to strain and injury. Great moves to start with include: sit to stand, squats, and lunges

Common Calf Injuries

Calf injuries are common and can range from a little tightness and cramping to minor strains or more serious tears. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and changes in mobility. Calf strains happen when one or more of the calf muscles over extend (or over stretch) and sometimes tear. In most cases, calf injuries aren’t serious and can be treated at home with conservative measures. 

Calf Injuries: A Hinge Health Perspective

Your muscles — especially the big muscle groups in your legs — are very resilient and designed to recover from the kinds of issues that naturally can happen in the course of everyday activities or during exercise.

If you’re reluctant to move because you think you’ll cause more damage or injury to your calves, know this: Movement is often the fastest way to healing. As our Hinge Health care team says, movement is medicine. Movement helps rehab the calf muscles by increasing blood flow and gradually improving their strength and flexibility. You want your calves to remain flexible and stretched to prevent muscle tightness that can lead to a calf strain or cramp. A physical therapist can also work with you on a strengthening and stretching plan. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Binstead, J. T., & Varacallo, M. (2019, April 5). Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Calf. National Library of Medicine; StatPearls Publishing. 

  2. De Maeght, K., Vansintjan, B., Van Roozendael, M., Aloush, R., & Pé, L. (2009). Calf Strain. Physiopedia. 

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