In the introduction post to this series, we reviewed and answered some common questions regarding stretching, including why, when, how, etc. Click here to review it.
In this post we will be talking about stretches specifically for the calf. In the video below are three ways to stretch out both the gastroc and soleus muscles. They move from easiest to most challenging to provide you with a progression as your flexibility starts to improve. Start at level one and work you way up when you can do so comfortably.
Level One: Seated with a strap. These stretches are idea for people who are coming back from an injury to the calf or who have had back problems in the past.
Level Two: Standing. This is the standard stretch that most people are familiar with. Start here if no injury or history of low back problems.
Level Three: Standing with ankle dorsiflexion (aka with the heel dropped down). This is the most difficult of the three and requires good ankle mobility and flexibility in the hip and hamstring. Go easy!! remember, you want the stretch to be repeatable.
1) Stretching should NEVER hurt. The goal is to only go until you feel a pull in the muscle. It should not be to go until it hurts in one of those “no pain, no gain” efforts. It should be comfortable and repeatable, allowing you to move a little further with each repetition.2) Perform stretches when the muscles are warmed up. This can be following a workout or following work with the foam roller. Click here to review the self massage post for the calf (this includes pictures and video using a foam roller and tennis ball to review 3 self muscle release techniques).
3) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. You can hold longer than the 20 seconds, but the reps are key. You will always get more out of stretching frequently versus one killer session a week.
4) If hurt- be sure to stretch the opposing muscle groups. For the calf, this means the foot, front and side of the lower leg, as well as, up into the hamstring (the gastroc crosses the back of the knee joint so the muscles work closely together). If it is too painful to stretch out the calf do to injury, focus on these groups instead and progress to stretching the calf. Always start at level 1 and work you way up.