Because the calves are one of the most overused and overlooked muscles in the body stretching them is a must, since tight, shortened calves usually lead to injury.
Why is the calf muscle often tight?
The calf muscle is well-known for shortening when it’s not taken through its range of motion on a regular basis. If you keep the calf muscle in a shortened position, it will eventually shorten in order to accommodate that new length.
The calf muscle is a postural muscle. This is why the calf must contract for long periods without fatiguing in order to hold us upright. This thing leads to tightening quickly.
Calf muscle tightness is a very common problem, and because of that a lot of people don't realize how tight they are. Among the factors that contribute to toughening the calves are bad posture, movement problems, high heels, and hereditary factors. Such as with all the other joints in your body, if you don’t move the ankle through its full range of motion on a regular basis, you will start to lose mobility at the ankle.
Paying attention to your calves is very important as when the foot moves, it influences movement at the knee, hip, and lower back. If your foot is moving abnormally in order to compensate for tight calf muscles it can cause aches and pains from your feet to your spine.
Calf stretches are great for improving the flexibility in your foot and ankle, but it is also really important to have good strength in your calf too. If you want to test your calf strength, stand on one leg and easily rise up and down onto your tip toes for thirty times. If that feels challenging for you, then you most certainly need to improve the strength and endurance of your calf muscles with some calf exercises.
You can get benefits from stretching out the foot too. Here are 6 of the best calf stretches that can be done almost anywhere and that can help you provide your calves with the required maintenance.
Straight leg calf stretch
Stand facing a wall with your palms flat against the wall. Keep your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend your left leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Without bending your back knee lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides. Do this stretch daily for two or three times if your calves feel tight.
Foam roller calf rolls
Sit on the floor and place a foam roller under your right ankle. Cross your left leg over your right and place your hands flat on the floor for support while keeping your back naturally arched. Roll your body forward until the roller reaches the back of your right knee. Roll back and forth from knee to ankle for 15 times and then repeat with your left leg. For optimal results do three sets of these daily. You can also perform the movement with both legs on the roller.
Downward facing 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.
Wall calf stretch
Standing a little less than arm’s distance from the wall, step your left leg forward and your right leg back keeping both feet parallel to each other. Bend your left knee pressing through your right heel and hold for 30 seconds before switching legs.
Calf stretch 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.
Calf stretching Exercises using a belt
Sit on a chair with your back straight and loop a strap or towel around the ball of your right foot. Straighten your right knee and pull the strap tight, holding it for 30 seconds. You can also perform the same stretch with the right knee bent. This calf stretch can also be performed sitting on the floor or on your bed.
Calf stretches can open the tight network of lower leg muscles that sometimes seize up after overuse or other underlying factors. Very often, when stretching, you may be concentrating more on the larger muscle groups like the thigh, hamstring or buttocks, and you may forget to give attention to your calves.
However, be sure and remember to stretch your calves using easy and effective exercises. But this is a different subject that we’ll discuss in our next week’s article when we bring you the best and most efficient exercises to help you tone your calves and build those calf muscles you desire.
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