Whether you’re walking, running, or jumping, you’re using your calf muscles. This means that with every movement, your calf muscles pull the heel up in order to move forward.
Because all of the nerves, muscles and bones are connected throughout the entire body, having tight calves can lead to other problems such as calf pain, foot pain, heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, knee pain and even hip and back pain.
There are a number of reasons as to why the calf muscle gets tight. The most common causes would be the lack of hydration and the lack of stretching, running or working out.
This is a problem that needs to be taken seriously because if the tightness continues for a long period of time, tiny micro tears in the muscles cause them to go into spasm where they contract and the blood cannot easily get into the muscle. The muscles squeeze the blood out like a sponge, and if they don’t get enough blood back, they will not get enough nutrients and so they’ll tighten up to protect themselves. Each time this happens, the muscle weakens.
If you find yourself in the situation where you stretch but it doesn’t seem to make any difference, you might need to give your calves more time to loosen up because the muscle is too tight, or you might not be stretching too hard.
Here are the top 4 stretches you might consider implementing in your workout routine:
#1. Downward dog
This is a basic yoga pose but very efficient for your calves. Start on your knees, placing your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Walk your legs back until your knees are no longer bent, raising your butt in the air so your body forms an upside-down “V”. Keep your spine straight, without placing too much weight on your hands and arms. Bend your right knee as you push your left heel into the ground, feeling the left calf stretch. Hold the position for 10 seconds then switch to the other calf for three sets.
#2. Gastrocnemius stretch
Stand with the leg to be stretched at the back and both hands on a wall at shoulder height. To stretch the big gastrocnemius muscle you need to keep the back leg straight. Bend the front knee and lean forwards, keeping the back knee straight and pushing the heel down into the floor. Once you feel a stretch, hold for 20 seconds and if the stretch eases, lean further forwards until you can feel it again.
#3. Soleus muscle stretch
To stretch the deeper soleus muscle you must keep the knee bent on the leg you want to stretch, because this muscle attaches below the knee and bending the knee allows the muscle to relax, leaving the soleus on stretch. Now lean against a wall with that bent leg at the back. Bend the knee keeping the heel in contact with the ground until a stretch is felt. If you don’t feel a stretch, try placing the ball of your foot against the wall and bend the front knee until you can feel the stretch.
#4. Stretching on a step
Stand on a step with the heel of the leg you want to stretch resting off the back of the step. Drop the heel down by slightly bending the other knee until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat the movement 3 times.
Training the calf muscle
What happens when the calf muscle is too stubborn to respond to any of the workout you’re putting into it? It’s simple. If the calf won’t grow the way you need it to, you need to use different variations and shock the muscle. Try something that they're not expecting and watch the growth begin
Any muscle takes about 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any workout routine. This is why you need to change it up once you stop seeing increases in strength and muscle size. When you don’t know exactly what to change, just change everything. Try mixing and matching various exercises with different training variables and you’ll start seeing results again.
These are the different training variables you should mix with any of the calf exercises we’ve been talking about in our second email this month:
- number of sets and reps
- choice and number of exercises
- order of exercises
- length of rest periods
- frequency of training
- amount of resistance
These are just a couple of tips to use for increasing the flexibility and muscles for your calves. Take a serious look at your training program and try figuring out what obstacles stand in the way of building big strong calves. Once you get the problem that’s holding you back, you can attack it at its source with the appropriate solution. Good luck!