Strained or tight calf muscles can be a really unpleasant or painful situation, even when simply walking. That can be caused by a variety of reasons such as genetically predisposition, improper shoes, strenuous work-out programs etc. Therefore, taking care of that matter is extremely significant for the effortless performance of muscles and joints, especially if you take into consideration that problematic calf muscles can impinge on hamstrings (for stretches focusing on hamstring click here) and result even in putting unnecessary pressure on the lower back (for stretches that target lower back click this), affecting the function of your whole body. So, carrying out a set of tight calf muscles stretches can be an excellent way for dealing with those eventualities.
The calf muscle runs along the back of the lower part of the leg; the primary calf muscle, the gastrocnemius muscle, consisting of two parts, begins from the back of the knee and connects with the heel through the Achilles tendon; the soleus, the smaller muscle of the area, is a flat muscle that is situated underneath the gastrocnemius muscle. Working together, the calf muscles are responsible for lifting the heels up, allowing for walking, running and jumping.
Click the photo on the right to get a better idea of the Calf Muscles.
Calf Stretching Exercises
Here are some examples of calf stretches – notice that you should first read our stretching guide before trying to apply any of them!.
- Stand in front of a wall and place your hands shoulder-width apart against the wall (photo 1), at chest level; put your left foot behind your right foot, gently flexing your right leg forward while maintaining your left knee aligned and the heel in contact with the floor; now, with your back straight, lean onto the wall pushing your hips forward; when you feel a gentle stretch, hold it there; repeat with the other leg. This is an effective passive/static stretch!
- Another passive/static calf stretching (photo 2) involves the following: Assume a sitting position on the floor with your back vertical to it, your left leg straightened and your right knee flexed in a way that its toes are in contact with the side of the straightened leg’s knee; use a towel or a bathrobe belt to hook your left foot and gently pull that belt with your hands to bring your toes towards your chest until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf; hold it there, relax and repeat with the other leg; there is also a variation of this exercise which is performed with the legs joint together. A PNF approach of the aforementioned stretch is relatively easy to apply, giving you the special benefits of PNF Stretching! An active version of the same stretch is also popular!
- Focusing on the soleus muscle, you can do the following stretch; stand straight with your back in an upright position and slightly bend your left knee forward with the heel of the leg touching the ground; bring down your hips until you feel the stretch on the soleus muscle and hold it there; switch legs and repeat (photo 3).
- Put your soles in the edge of a step (almost 1/3 of the sole should touch the step) with your feet absolutely straight. Leave the gravity stretch your calves (photo 4). You can also apply the stretch to each feet seperately (photo 5)! If you don’t have a step you can put your feet on the ground and actively raise your left’s foot sole. You will feel an (active) stretch in your calf (photo 6). Repeat with the right foot!
In general, those static calf stretches should be held for 15-20 seconds, in sets of 4-5; performing them 3-4 times a week should be enough to improve your flexibility, which in turn can enable you further escalate the frequency and the intensity of your stretching routine.
Obviously, you can perform some of the above described stretches in a more dynamic way, engaging your muscles in a swinging way, of average intensity and without of course surpassing the normal range of motion, in some sets of 10-12 repetitions; however, it is preferable not to attempt that mode of stretching without supervision from a trained coach.
Stretching your calves not only doesn’t require massive effort, yet it can deliver great benefits. Indicatively:
- It lengthens the muscle fibers, amplifying the range of motion in your joints and strengthening the connective tissue which surround them
- More flexible calf muscles can hinder potential injuries, alleviating the shock caused by an unintended impact on the leg or foot; that is particularly important for people who engage in physically demanding athletic activities
- It decreases the risk of encountering chronic back pain (for more back pain stretches have a look here) knee problems, shin splints, ankle pain, Sever’s disease and inflammation of the bottom of the foot (medically known as “plantar fasciitis”)
- It releases muscle tension and fatigue after work-out
- It contributes to the preserving of your body’s movability
What To Consider
Whenever applying calf stretches, you should take into consideration our Do’s and Dont’s on Stretching. Apart from these, you should first give some thought to the following:
- Perform a warm-up of 5-10 minutes, focusing mainly on your legs and more specifically on their lower part (for instance, walk around or do some jogging)
- Never underestimate that those specific muscles of your body are delicate, so do not overstretch them; also, since stretching your calf muscles is not so hard, it is easy to underrate your exercises and cause an injury
- Execute the stretches gently, avoiding clumsy movements which may provoke unwanted pulls
- Don’t hold your breath
Photos & Videos
In case the aforementioned didn’t make pretty clear how to stretch your calves, you should perhaps have a look at the photos and pics below:
Stretches for calf muscles is an excellent way of keeping those muscles flexible and preventing from various injuries or troublesome situations in this vulnerable area, either you are a person living an ordinary life or a runner or amateur athlete – even if you are among the children or adults that enjoy jumping castles. Yet, taking them too lightly may cause more problems than leaving them unstretched; so, discuss the suitability of those exercises with a physiotherapist before beginning them so as to get the biggest benefit from them.
Category: Stretching specific Body Areas