Gastrocnemius atrophy

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A well-toned leg stands out due to the gastrocnemius muscle which is the large muscle that defines the calf right below the knee. The capacity of the individual to develop the gastrocnemius is partly genetic and largely a product of training. Once the training of the individual changes, it is not uncommon for the gastrocnemius to start to shrink. On the other hand, severe shrinking of the muscle that does not respond to training can indicate a neuromuscular defect.

The gastrocnemius together with the soleus muscle works to allow plantar flexion of the ankle just like when rising up onto the balls of the feet. These two muscles make up the calf. Take note that the muscle fibers of the gastrocnemius are arranged in a penniform which is a feather-like pattern with fibers that run at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the muscle. The pennated muscles are structured to produce a strong force such as in jumping.

Muscle size and undergoing training

It is important to note that the gastrocnemius is comprised of both the fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. The percentage and distribution of the muscle fibers is genetically predetermined. Nevertheless, the endurance and resistance training can help improve the oxidative capacity of the fast-twitch fibers, boosting their cross-sectional area. If the individual will stop training, the muscles will eventually lose their oxidative properties and result to atrophy. Additionally, stopping training will trigger hormonal alterations in the muscle, resulting to the reduction in the growth hormones that will promote muscle hypertrophy.

Gastrocnemius atrophy
The gastrocnemius together with the soleus muscle works to allow plantar flexion of the ankle just like when rising up onto the balls of the feet.

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Factors that affects the potential of the gastrocnemius

The genetic factors can also influence the potential of the gastrocnemius for hypertrophy as well as the speed and degree of atrophy after the individual stops training.

The body type, gender, muscle size and ethnicity can also influence the potential of muscle growth. The lifestyle and diet can also affect the size of the gastrocnemius. Women who regularly wear high heels force the ankle into plantar flex position and load the gastrocnemius, resulting to atrophy. A change in profession that involves wearing flats can also result to gastrocnemius atrophy. Additionally, inadequate protein in the diet can also prevent growth of the muscle and changes in the diet can lead to atrophy.

Certain diseases

Even though gastrocnemius atrophy usually occurs due to disease, there are some degenerative conditions that can lead to the disturbance of the motor neurons that stimulates muscle narrowing, leading to muscle atrophy. Based on studies conducted, muscles that lose their innervation can lose mass quickly in a span of a few months. If the individual consumes certain drugs such as statins for cholesterol control, it has led to muscle wasting. If the individual experiences gastrocnemius atrophy despite of training consistently, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

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