The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, also known as the calf muscles, are hand in hand, responsible for acceleration, deceleration and power when on a run. For instance, running up a hill and slowing down a decent, would require the use of these strong muscles to ensure you don’t fall on your face on the way down.
On the other hand, weak calf muscles can cause tight muscles, hamstring injuries, hip problems, strains, tendon tears and can also affect other parts of your body as well. Therefore, in order to be in proper form and fitness, your calves require some regular stretching exercises to strengthen them. Also, it is always best practice to see your doctor when performing new fitness exercises due to any intense pain or discomfort experienced.
Wearing high heels that are confined and running shoes with a rigid under-foot may not allow your feet to roll downwards or upwards, thereby restricting movement and forming tight muscles. After a heavy workout than usual or a longer run, the body may, as result be sore and ultimately form swellings that restrict muscle movement and cause tight calf muscles. In this case, if you were moving down a decent, it may result in you falling on your face.
The different techniques used, vary with what requirements need to be met. Stretching can be a good source of temporary relief, and when done regularly, may lead to long-term solutions. There are two categories of stretches: –
1. Static stretches.
These are stretches that are held in one position with no vector-direction and help to loosen up muscle filaments.
a) The technical calf raise (heel drop) stretch.
This technique is meant to stretch and strengthen the calf muscles: –
- Stand on a step (or the edge of a treadmill) with your heels hanging off the edge.
- Hold on to rails or other relevant surface for balance.
- Rise on your toes for 10 seconds.
- Very slowly drop your heels below the level of the step.
- Push up and back down repeatedly.
- Do 15 sets of this 3 times daily.
To make this a dynamic stretch, slowly pedal your heels back and forth.
b) The seated calf stretch.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front.
- Lean forward and grab the arches of your feet.
- Pull your toes toward your body until a stretch is felt in your calf muscles
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat with the other leg.
c)The runner’s lunging calf.
- Stand one foot away from a wall and face it (you can also just do this with your hands akimbo).
- Put one leg at the back of the other and keep it straight, ensuring both feet lie flat on the ground.
- Extend your arms toward the wall for support.
- If you’re doing this without a wall, lean your upper body forwards as if you’re reaching out for something.
- You should begin to feel some stress in the calf muscle of the rear leg the more you extend your arms.
- Hold for not less than ten seconds.
- Repeat with the other leg.
The wider apart your feet are, the deeper the calf stretch will be. You can keep changing the position of your rear-foot to figure out the position of your tightest calf muscle. It has been noted that, depending on a person’s movement patterns, lifestyle choices and shoes, different parts of your calf will feel tighter than others.
d) The seated resistance-band calf stretch
You can also use a yoga strap or a towel: –
- Obtain a resistance band or a strapping cloth.
- Extend your legs out in front while sitting on a ground surface.
- Bundle up the strap-band around one foot.
- Slowly and lightly pull the strap-band such that your toes are pointing at you.
- Remain on this position for not less than fifteen seconds.
- Repeat this technique with the other leg.
e) The downward dog
The key to getting a calf stretch out of this classic yoga pose is to press your heels toward the ground.
- Start in a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Pressing through your fingers and palms, shift your weight back to bring your butt to the ceiling, so your body’s in an inverted V shape.
- Press your heels toward the ground—the closer they get to the floor, the deeper the calf stretch will be.
- To stretch the lower part of your calves, bend your knees slightly while you continue to press your heels toward the ground.
f) The standing bent-over calf stretch.
This stretch technique helps you work on your hamstrings and ankles. According to recent study, one muscle group has an effect on the next immediate muscle group and so on, thereby causing a muscle chain. Therefore, this workout helps the entire chain get in shape.
- Stand with your feet staggered.
- Bend your back knee and keep your front knee straight as you fold forward.
- Grab your front foot beneath the toes.
- Pull up gently on your toes. Here, you will feel the stretch in your calf.
- Repeat on the other foot.
2. Dynamic calf stretches
These stretches involve some activity and vector-direction that help improve flexibility and mobility.
a) The farmer’s walk on toes.
This technique is used to build and strengthen the calf muscles: –
- Stand upright and tall.
- Hold a pair of heavy dumbbells by your sides.
- Standing upright, rise on your toes and walk forward for one minute without stopping for a break.
- Do this technique three times a day.
b) The explosive jump squat.
The squats build calf muscles and helps to generate power: –
- Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than the width between your shoulders and toes turned a little outward.
- Fold your hands in front of the chest.
- Send your hips backward and bend the knees while keeping your chest lifted.
- As you rise up standing, jump explosively and land softly.
- Do three 3 times a day with a set of 15 each.
You can use dumbbells by your sides as well. This helps to strengthen the calf muscles.