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Old 06-18-2010, 04:52 AM   #1
Nicolas Warren
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 190
Unhappy Recurring calf pain from full squats and oly lifts

Please help!
I have been reading the Cathletics forum for around 6 months now, and I havenít found a thread that deals with a recurring injury that I keep having. I would be very grateful for any/some advice.
It seems that I keep hurting my left calf (more specifically, my outer mid calf) when I start to squat regularly (or do movements that end in a full squat; for example the oly lifts).
(Below is my training program in terms of squatting since 13-Apr, when I first had some issues. Apologies if the detail is excessive and irrelevant)
I first felt a little twinge there on 13-Apr when I was doing a linear strength cycle of Back squats (3x5), Presses (5x5) and DLs (5x1), alternating with Front Squats(3x5), Dips (3 sets) and Pull-ups (3 sets) every other day (so A, rest, B, rest, A etc). I went from 115 on the back squats on the 11-Apr to 127.5 on the 23-Apr, at which point I decided to stop squatting because the pain was constant, and very acute during work-outs (it built up steadily during this period, at first only during and after workouts but then during the day afterwards as well).
So I took a break til 1-May doing only 3 workouts in this time, one with BS @ 80x2x3 on 27-Apr where there was only a little bit of pain in my leg, and then some heavy singles on 1-May (up to 145). I donít think it hurt much at all on this day.
I thought that I had recovered by the 5-May, where I did another set of BS @ 116x3x5. There was only slight pain in this work-out, so on 9-May another workout similar to the previous cycle until I stopped on 13-May because the pain was really bad again.
I decided that I would do no squatting whatsoever for two weeks, but I did do some DLs (these didnít seem to aggravate the calf, and I had cut them back to once a week).
On 29-May BS 100x3x3 with no pain (but the left calf felt a little tight). 1-Jun FS 80x5x3, 3-Jun OHS 50x5x2 (my OHS squat is very poor) 5-Jun BS 80x5x3, 8-Jun BS 70x10x2, 10-Jun FS 70x4x2, 12-Jun no squats, but some cleans up to 85 which is heavy for me (105 is my 1RM), (left calf felt a bit stiff, but not sore)
Then 15-Jun BS 80x7x3 with a little bit of pain in my left calf, 17-Jun some MH cleans up to 60 but I stopped because the pain became quite strong again.
I donít know whatís wrong with me!
I train by myself, but have received some coaching in the Olympic lifts and did CF for a little under a year. I train in oly shoes, have recently purchased a belt. Iím 6í and around 90-something kilos (weight has gone from 78kg at the start of this year to 90kg at the end of May). In terms of my leg proportions (if thatís relevant), I full squat comfortably with my legs quite close together. My knees crack a little when I squat. I have a foam roller and very tight outer quad muscles I think (at least they feel quite rock hard and are quite painful to roll on); I donít think my calf or ankles are particularly tight because I can squat to full depth in bare feet and they donít feel very sore when I foam roll them. In terms of diet, mostly paleo, but with 2-3 ltrs of Full cream cowís milk, and half oats half almonds (plus meat plus fruit) in the morning (the oats are the only regular non-paleo thing; if Iím feeling especially keen to put on weight, Iíll go hunt down some double quarter pounders, etc). Iím not sure what else is relevant?
Should I take a month off from squatting? 2-months? Change my program? Change my form? Stretch more? Warm-up more? Eat cleaner? Eat more fish oil? All of the above?
Is the injury likely to be tendons? muscle related? how can I tell?
I want to keep lifting weights Olympic style but I would also like to keep walking as well...
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:05 PM   #2
Jesse Woody
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 127


There's the other thread that I found. Both myself and my friend Quint have had this problem, and i haven't found anything that gets rid of it other than not snatching and cleaning. I can squat relatively frequently without too much of a problem, but it seems the dynamic nature of catching the lifts aggravates it pretty severely.
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:47 PM   #3
Steven Low
Super Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 3,091

Where exactly is the pain located? Can you mark a googled pic where it is?

Also, any other movements confer similar pain or twinges?

Like I said in the other thread:

PNF stretching + heat + self massage + foam rolling

MAY be a strain.. in which case:

But the other thing that may be a problem is a tight popliteus or other muscles up high on the knee. The vastus lateralis may be a problem that is manifesting lower too... depends a lot.
Posts NOT intended as professional medical, training or nutrition advice.
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Old 06-21-2010, 06:22 PM   #4
Jesse Woody
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 127

Mine is directly in the middle/top-middle of the soleus and it manifests as a pretty sharp pain deep in the muscle belly. It's sore to touch, and feels like an extreme knot, but massage/foam rolling has never made much difference. The worst time for it is when I drop into a squat before a lift, when I set up on the bar. When I go to raise my hips into my start position it's a stabbing pain that makes me look like my grandad used to when he'd have to get up off the floor...slow and painful Quint's is the same.

It definitely hurts during a squat, but it's fast enough to not really stop me from snatching or cleaning heavy...it just hurts enough afterward to be REALLY annoying, and makes it much less worth training as heavy as I'd like. The odd thing is that I have great flexibility in my calves, and It's always seemed to me to be somehow related to the combination of the stretch and the impact of my calf/hamstring in the bottom of the lift, as regular front or back squats don't seem to make it happen, they only aggravate it after the fact.
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Old 06-22-2010, 07:16 AM   #5
Nicolas Warren
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 190

Thank you for the link to the other thread! Reading through some of that, it seems like it might be 'chronic compartment syndrome'. I think I will continue to rest it and if the pain comes back again, go and see a specialist. I've started a training log to make sure my programming is public and hopefully not stupid.

I am thinking that I will do some isolation work of the soleus (seated calf raises with a light weight) 2 times a week for a few weeks, and if that doesn't aggravate it, gradually reintroduce squatting starting with air squats and building up slowly. Or should I just rest it completely and leave it for a month, before starting something like the above, making sure that I stretch, heat, self-massage and foam roll it regardless of what I do?

Steven, here is an image showing where the pain typically is.

The pain is typically above and below where the soleus line meets the picture on the right.

I don't think it is a muscle strain because there was no sharp onset of pain. It's something that gradually builds up, both during the workout, and through a cycle if I keep repeating movements that aggravate it.
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Old 06-23-2010, 09:49 AM   #6
Jesse Woody
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 127

Yep, that's the exact spot, and I've always felt that it was a similar pain to what is described as compartment syndrome, though it would seem that chronic compartment syndrome would probably be a problem more often than this seems to come up, i.e. I don't get it in conjunction with things that are utilizing the calf as much as things that dynamically stretch the calf (with the possibility of the impact of the hamstring also being an issue, which isn't as prevalent in regular squats for me)

I'm going to take a couple of weeks off of the Olympic lifts and focus on PNF, rolling, heat and self-massage in the interim and report back when I introduce the lifts back in.
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