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The best calf muscle stretches are designed to target muscle groups in the leg that tend to be stiff, sore, and more easily injured due to overuse. The calf muscles are one of these areas because of the role they play in everyday activities like standing and walking. Calf strain is also a common jumping and running injury. Calf pain and stiffness can make it feel hard to go about your normal day without cringing or limping. Keep reading to learn about stretches for tight or injured calf muscles.
Gently stretching the calf muscles in the morning, prior to a workout, and after an activity are all great ways to decrease stiffness and pain. Always focus on staying relaxed and never force a move if there is significant pain. Try these simple moves to get started.
Grab a calf stretcher and a chair for balance. Place the foot of the affected leg comfortably on the stretcher in its designated spots for the forefoot and heel. Make sure the foot is flat and the toes are pointing straight forward. Keep good posture in the upper body and spine. Then, keep the knee of the affected leg straight as you shift your body weight backward and bring your toes up toward your shins. Shift until you feel a strong but comfortable stretch in the back of the calf and hold. Return to the starting position before repeating again.
Hold for 5-10 seconds for up to 10 repetitions.
Grab a chair or use the wall for balance. Step back with the leg that you want to stretch and place the foot flat on the floor. The foot should be pointing straight forward throughout the stretch and with heel firmly on the floor. Keep the back knee perfectly straight as you shift your body weight into your front leg and bend the knee. Lean until you feel a strong stretch in the back of the leg at the calf muscle known as the gastrocnemius.
Then, to address the deeper calf muscle known as the soleus, repeat the stretch with the back knee slightly bent this time. With this change in leg position, you should feel a stretch a little lower and deeper into the calf.
Hold for 30+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg for each position.
Sit on the floor with a stretching strap, belt, or towel. Long sit with both legs out in front of you and the knees straight. Wrap the strap around the ball of your foot and hold the ends with your hands firmly. Keep good posture as you pull the toes back toward your shin until a stretch is felt in the calf. You can also attempt this stretch sitting in a chair with the leg propped on another chair or ottoman.
Alternatively, to address the deeper leg muscle fibers in the calf you can repeat this stretch with a slight bend in the knee. You should feel this stretch a little lower and deeper into the calf muscle.
Hold for 30+ seconds in each position for 2-3 sets.
Try Foam Rolling for Tight Calves
Completing yoga poses is a great way to stretch multiple muscle groups at once. Plus, yoga will help with relaxation thanks to a focus on breath worth and rhythmic movements. This can help you get back quicker to full-body moves like running and walking (/blogs/resources/calf-pain-when-walking-or-running) with better ease. Try out these moves to stretch the calves and feel better overall.
Stand with the feet about hip-width apart to get started. Then, bend forward by hinging at the hips and place your hands on the floor out in front of you. Your body should create an upside-down “V” from your hips. Keep the back flat and knees as straight as possible. Then, let your heels fall toward the ground, touching if possible. You can hold this position or choose to alternate movement in your ankles as if you are “walking” in place. Continue until you feel a decrease in stiffness in the calf.
Hold for 30+ seconds or alternate between legs for 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets total.
Stand with your feet wider than your yoga mat and toes pointing outward. Bring your hands in front of your chest as you squat down toward the floor as far as possible. If you’re flexible enough, the back of your thighs should be touching your calves and your butt will be only a few inches from the ground. Push your elbows against the inside of your knees for stability as you focus on taking some deep relaxing breaths to allow you to sink deeper into the stretch.
Hold for 60+ seconds while breathing deeply for 2-3 sets.
Get into a runner’s lunge position by stepping one leg back behind you as far as is comfortable. Keep the feet about hip-width apart with the front foot flat on the floor and the ball of the foot of the back leg resting on the floor. Ultimately, you want to have your arms overhead for this stretch. However, you can choose to rest your hands on your front knee or even on the floor depending on where you feel the best calf stretch. To get a deeper stretch, simply shift your entire body down toward the ground and forward while keeping the back knee straight.
Hold for 30+ seconds on each side for 2-3 sets while focusing on a deep breathing rhythm.
This stretch is great for general ankle and foot stiffness which is common with calf pain. Start by standing with your feet in a comfortable position. You will then bend your knees so that you can bring them down to rest on the ground. Your upper body will stay upright as you rest your butt on your heels with the bottom of the toes still touching the ground. You should feel a nice stretch into the toes and ankles themselves. If it is too intense, you can adjust how close your butt is to your heels. Simply relax and breathe while holding this position.
Hold for 60+ seconds for 2-3 sets total.
Muscle injuries often result in swelling, stiffness, and pain that affect your normal daily activities. Here are some of the benefits of having a stretching routine for your calf injury:
Generally, stretching should be done daily to relieve any stiffness that you encounter. Common times to stretch are in the morning, before bed, and before and after an exercise program. As stiffness and pain lessen, you may find you need to stretch for less time or less frequency. You can simply adjust your program to fit your needs and time constraints. There is no perfect answer to how often you should stretch since it really is up to each individual situation. Tune into your body and you’ll know what to do.
Consider loosening tight muscles with these foam rolling techniques.
If your symptoms become severe or are affecting your daily routine get in touch with your sports medicine doctor for medical advice as soon as possible. If you experience deep dull aching pain accompanied by redness and swelling in the calf there is a possibility of a life-threatening blood clot so seek medical care immediately.
Remember, pairing a good stretching program with other treatment options like physical therapy will have you feeling better and pain-free in no time. If you’re still not sure what to do, consider rehab with a physical therapist to expedite your results.
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