In the modern day and age, most people lead a very sedentary life. Studies show that 44% of our time is spent sitting down and that the average person sits still for 10 hours a day. This is largely to blame for the rise of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and a range of heart issues.
While some people will strive to remain as active as they can, whether that be through going to the gym, jogging, or doing physical activities in their free time, it is still often not enough to help them hit their peak health and fitness, as they have a mountain to overcome caused by their day to day life.
One of the more unique ways you can boost your level of physical activity without too much effort is to do soleus push-ups. The soleus muscle in the lower leg is the main muscle that we use to stand, walk, and run, despite the fact that it only accounts for around 1 percent of your total body weight.
There is proof that if activated properly the soleus muscle can have a profound impact on fitness and improve metabolic health, but many people don’t know this or train it properly. Luckily, our guide to breaking down the soleus push up will give you all you need to know to enjoy these benefits yourself.
What Is The Science Behind The Soleus Push Up?
The idea behind performing soleus push ups is that you will perform an activity that simulates a movement which is almost the opposite of walking. When you are walking the soleus is inactive as the heel rises, doing soleus push ups therefore helps to develop the less used muscle in the calves.
When you do a soleus push up, the motor neurons in the muscle are constantly firing and using a lot of energy. This makes it a great way to increase both your energy expenditure and metabolic rate, without having to do strenuous exercises, meaning it is an option even for people who are not fit.
Unlike most muscles in the human body, the soleus does not rely heavily on glycogen, the preferred energy source of our muscles. Instead, a soleus contraction is fuelled by blood glucose and fat, which means that the muscle is able to work for hours at a time, without ever tiring or becoming fatigued.
Doing soleus push ups can even double the rate at which your body metabolises fat when you are fasting, decreasing the levels of fat and bad cholesterol in the blood and making it a very effective addition to the routine of people who are following a strict diet or cutting up before a competition.
What Does The Research Say?
According to a 2022 study that was published by iScience, doing soleus push ups can improve blood glucose regulation, as it allows you to sustain a high level of oxidative metabolism, while it being fatigue resistant means you will not have to worry about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).
The results show that by doing a single session of exercises that focus on contracting the soleus, you can decrease your blood glucose level by up to 52%, which is more than what you would achieve by doing an hour on a treadmill or performing other similar cardio aerobic exercises for the same time.
The Soleus Muscle
The Soleus muscle is a flat, wide muscle in your lower legs that makes up part of what is known as the calf. It runs from just below your knee down to your heel and it works together with the gastrocnemius muscle to stabilise the ankle and control the downward movement of the foot.
This soleus muscle is often overlooked in traditional calf exercise workouts, as these tend to focus more on the larger and more visible gastrocnemius muscle. This leads to the soleus muscle often becoming “dormant” in many people, meaning it goes completely unworked and undeveloped.
By doing soleus push ups you can effectively boost the oxygen consumption of the soleus muscle far more than you could with other types of calf exercises, while it is also resistant to fatigue. This means you can train it for hours at a time to enhance it, without ever having to stop or worry about DOMS.
How To Perform Soleus Push Ups
Soleus push ups, much like seated calf raises, are really effective at isolating the soleus, as the muscle is activated best by getting yourself into a seated position with your knees bent to 80 to 90 degrees. The goal is to shorten the calf muscles and simultaneously activate the soleus muscles.
Sit on the edge of a bench or seat with both feet flat on the floor, a right angle in your knees and the muscles relaxed. Lift your heels while the ball of your foot stays in contact with the floor and, when the heel hits the top of its range of motion, relax the feet to let them come back down on their own.
The Benefits Of Performing Soleus Push Ups
Soleus push ups may not be a common exercise or one that will have as much of a dramatic effect on your body as some other exercises. However, performing soleus push up does offer a few very useful benefits which we will now look at, to show you just why you should seriously consider doing them.
Develops The Muscles In The Lower Leg
As with any exercise, its main function is to develop the muscle you are actually working. This means that performing soleus push ups will help to build up the soleus muscle and increase its thickness and strength, leading to a fuller, stronger, and all-around better developed calf region in general.
Soleus push ups are an extremely effective way to increase your body’s energy expenditure. There are studies that show performing them regularly can reduce your blood sugar levels by up to 52% and will double your body’s fat metabolism if you perform them while you are in a fasted state.
This makes them an incredibly useful tool for people trying to lose weight or tone up, as well as a very effective intervention for type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases such as obesity.
Burns lots of calories
Finally, despite being a very simple exercise that requires little effort to complete, soleus push ups burn around half as many calories per minute as walking. This makes it a great way for you to boost fat loss and have a low intensity and low impact workout while you do things like work or watch tv.
How Long Does It Take To Do Soleus Push Ups?
Performing soleus push ups does not take long, as it is a relatively simple exercise. However, while it is very simple and sounds like a quick fix, it is important to be aware that you will need to commit a fair bit of time to do them if you really want to reap the maximum rewards that they can offer.
Most studies indicate that their participants had to do a lot of soleus push ups to achieve results. On average, the subjects spent around four and a half hours doing soleus push ups almost constantly, with very little to rest in between the “sets”.
However, as the soleus muscle is almost fully fatigue resistant, the subjects did not experience any pain or soreness afterwards. Combined with the fact of how little effort and energy is needed to do them, this means adding them in while you are doing other seated activities shouldn’t be too hard.
Are Soleus Push Ups Better Than Traditional Exercise?
Make no mistake, traditional exercises such as lifting weights or doing cardio can burn stored energy and fat significantly quicker, while also building more muscle, so the soleus push up is by no means an alternative to a regular workout routine if you are already performing one consistently.
However, if you are unable to exercise due to work, injury, or illness, then the soleus push up may be better than traditional exercise for you. It will harness all of the benefits of exercise and need far less energy or effort to do on a consistent basis while using excess blood sugar and fat at a decent rate.
Strengthening The Soleus Muscle
Despite often being overlooked, strengthening the soleus muscle is crucial to your overall health, fitness, and physique for a number of reasons. For starters, as it is a major muscle when it comes to your posture, strengthening it will help to prevent you from falling forward as you walk or stand.
The soleus muscle is also often involved in lower leg injuries, usually because it is underdeveloped. By strengthening it, you can enhance your overall lower leg strength and greatly reduce the risk of falls, as well as injuries directly to the lower leg region that are caused by doing dynamic movements.
It should be noted that a soleus push up is not the optimal choice for building strength, as it is not designed for overloading. That said, they will still offer some strength benefits, while you get greater gains from pairing them with exercises like seated calf raises or toe press variations on a leg press.
The best exercises to achieve maximum strength gains in the soleus muscle will be ones where your knees are bent to at least 80 degrees, as these are the ones that isolate the soleus best and work it the most. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some exercises to improve soleus muscle strength.
To do a soleus bridge, lay flat on your back on the floor and put the balls of your feet on a slightly elevated surface, such as a foam roller or weight plate. Perform a hip extension by driving your pelvis towards the ceiling and then squeeze your glutes hard at the lockout to hold a glute bridge position.
While in this position, perform a calf raise, so that you press up as high onto your toes as you can. Pause here for a second and then slowly reverse the movement until your feet are flat on the floor again, at which point you will reset and repeat the last part of the exercise as many times as needed.
Squat With Soleus Raise
To perform a squat with a soleus raise, hold a squat rack with both hands and stand with an upright torso, your feet hip-width apart, and your toes pointed forward. Keep your shoulders back and your chest up, and then do a traditional squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, and then pause.
From here, perform a calf raise by raising up onto your toes as high as you can go. Pause here for a second and then slowly bring your heels back down to the ground. Now stand up from the squat and immediately reset and repeat until you have done as many reps of the full sequence as you need to.
Seated Calf Raises
The seated calf raise is the best option to build strength in your soleus muscle. To perform it, sit with your back straight and your legs bent at 90 degrees. Put the balls of your feet on a solid, slightly elevated surface and put a weight on your lap that rests slightly above the knee.
Slowly lower your heels to the floor and pause for a second to feel a deep stretch, then lift your heels as far up as possible, going onto your tiptoes and squeezing your calves at the lockout. Again, pause for a second before slowly lowering back down, resetting, and repeating as many times as needed.
Other Tips On How To Develop Your Soleus Muscle
While using both soleus push ups and the exercises we listed above will help you to develop your soleus muscle, they are not the only options. We will now go over a few other tips on how to develop your soleus muscle, to ensure that everybody is fully ready to achieve the maximum gains possible.
Stretching is good for all of your muscles, but it is particularly important for those in the lower leg. Tight calf muscles can significantly restrict both your ankle and knee movement, while also limiting ankle mobility. The tighter the muscle is, the more likely it is that a serious soleus strain may occur.
Spending hours sitting will further tighten the soleus muscle and make these issues more likely to occur. If you perform at least 30 seconds to a minute of soleus stretching both before and after you work at a desk or sit watching TV, you will greatly reduce the chance of these injuries occurring.
Use Proper Positioning
Although soleus push ups look very simple and just require you to lift and lower your heels, like with any exercise it is vital to be in a proper position to properly activate the muscle. You must make sure that you bend your knees to at least 80 degrees, while always maintaining foot contact on the floor.
Set A Reminder
While it may sound simple, as it is not part of a regular workout routine, it can be easy to forget to do your soleus push ups. By simply setting a reminder on your phone or watch that goes of when it is time to do them, you will never miss a set and get to enjoy the best results from your soleus push ups.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) About Soleus Push Ups
Before we finish breaking down the soleus push up, I quickly want to go over some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that people have about them. This will ensure that you truly do have all you need to know about them to be able to use them effectively yourself.
How Many Sets & Repetitions Should I Perform For Soleus Push Ups?
As the soleus muscle is resistant to fatigue, you can perform soleus push-ups for as long as you like. The key is to continuously do soleus push ups for at least an hour to feel a real effect from them, but you can keep going long beyond this if you really want to achieve maximum results.
How Strong Is The Soleus Muscle?
The soleus muscle is incredibly strong and may even be one of the strongest muscles in the entire human body. It can produce a force that is equivalent to around 8 times your own body weight and it is about 3 times stronger than your gastrocnemius.
Can The Soleus Grow?
The soleus muscle is full of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which means it is generally great for endurance but is often very hard to grow. That said, your genetics play a much bigger factor in whether you will be able to grow your soleus than they do with most muscles, so some people won’t have this issue.
Final Thoughts On Soleus Push Ups
Soleus push ups are a great yet underused exercise to not only strengthen and improve the function and stability of your lower leg but also to accelerate fat loss and enhance your physique as a whole. This article will hopefully have given you all the info you need to make the most of them for yourself.
For those who want to really push themselves, you don’t even need to keep them as a bodyweight exercise either, as you can add weight to make them both more challenging and more effective. All that you have to do now then is give them a go and see how useful they can truly be for you.
Steve is a retired professional wrestler with over 10 years of experience in the personal fitness industry. He is a certified personal trainer working with a wide variety of athletes as well as a fitness writer.