Go Farther And Deeper With These Calf Stretches
It’s easy to underestimate how the effects of tight calves can ripple up through the rest of our bodies and cause all sorts of aches and pains. Lower back pain can result from tight calves and so too can painful knees be caused by calves that are inflexible and under-stretched. Not to mention the fact that their agility is critical to preventing injury and maintaining good ankle and foot health, which we define as having the right balance between stretch and strength. In other words, you need to be able to move freely, but you also need the support of strong (not tight) muscles and stable joints.
Now, you can stretch your calves, or you can stretch your calves. In this post we will show you not just what to do, but give you techniques on how to do it, because execution is the key to getting into the muscles and releasing the knots and kinks.
For starters, the single most important thing to remember when you are stretching your calves is to not bend back your toes. You have to keep your foot flat if you are flexing it. This way your foot acts as a lever and pulls the full length of the calf as you bend at the ankle. (Try it, you’ll see what I mean :) What happens is that, when the muscle is tight, it stops the foot just before hitting a right angle and then the mind thinks it needs to go farther, but the tight calf won’t let it, so the toes bend. But that little, tiny detail prevents you from achieving a complete stretch.
So, we have two great ways to stretch your calves from a standing position. And then, I’ll share another that I give to my dancers all the time to stretch the sides, because muscles are not one dimensional. You need to hit them from alternate angles as much as you need to target them linearly. That is, if you really want to feel a difference in your body and get better results from your stretch.
- Standing in a lunge, one leg is front and one leg is back. Make sure legs are both completely parallel. Bend the front leg. Put your hands on your leg and lean forward. It has to be a hinge at the hip and a flat back. Go as far as you can, holding that form. Hold yourself there and press straight through the back of the knee, driving the bottom of your heel into the floor. (It will bend the same way the toes do when you lean forward. It’s the body’s way of avoiding the stretch.) To increase it, you just bend the front knee more and/or lean forward more. The back knee will give way again so you just need to keep pressing through the space behind it to make sure it is straight, with the heel glued down.
- Standing with feet parallel and hips’ width apart. Send one leg out in front of you and rest it on your heel, so foot is flexed. Put your hands on your hips. Lift your chin and stick your butt out before you hinge over into a flat back. Again, it doesn’t matter how far you go, it matters that you keep your back flat. You must also keep your chin up, so you are looking in front of you, not at the floor. When you go as far as you can, with the back flat and chin up, you try to flex your foot a tiny bit more. Again, flexing only with the whole foot at the ankle, not bending at the toes. Then you want to hold that there, and straighten the back of the knee. So essentially, the foot and ankle are pulling on the bottom and pinning it in place, while the back of the knee catches the top of the muscle and pulls it in the opposite direction. And there you have a full, end-to-end calf stretch!
- Legs are parallel and under your hips. Roll down and hang there. If you don’t go all the way down, you just lean on something. It can be as high as a chair or table or something that takes hands almost to the floor, like a yoga block. Then you just roll your feet out so you are resting them on the outer edges. That will stretch the sides of your calves and ankles where they connect. If you give your head a tiny pull a little closer to the floor, it will gently increase the stretch.
If you would like to do these with me, you can follow along in our Lastics Lite video here.
For more advanced and much more intense calf stretches, you can check out our Advanced Lastics videos here.
Want more? Check out our short hamstring and back stretch video.
Meanwhile, we hope you’ll join us on Facebook and Instagram.