Your calf muscles are made up of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, which attach to your heel bone via the Achilles tendon. Calf muscles are prone to tightness, because we spend much of our lives in a seated position, with our legs bent and heels off the floor. Wearing shoes with elevated heels also contributes to tighter calf muscles. Tight calves can contribute to knee and ankle pain by altering the way you walk.
Standing Calf Stretch
Stand about three feet from a sturdy wall. Place your hands on the wall, take a large step back with your left leg, and bend your right leg. Place your left foot flat on the floor. Make sure your toes are pointing directly forward. Lean into the stretch by bending your arms and right leg. Exhale and relax into the stretch; hold this position for 30 seconds or more. This stretch focuses on the large gastrocnemius muscle.
Kneeling Calf Stretch
To stretch your soleus muscle, kneel down on the floor. Bring one knee up to a 90-degree angle, placing that foot flat on the floor next to the opposite knee. Resting your fingertips on the ground for balance, lean gently forward, keeping the heel of the flat foot on the floor. Feel the stretch up the back of the calf as you work to hold the heel down. Maintain the stretch for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Downward Dog Pose
This traditional yoga pose is an effective stretch for all your rear leg muscles, including the calves. Kneel down and place your hands under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. With your toes curled under, extend your arms and legs simultaneously, so your body looks like in inverted "V" shape when viewed from the side. Let your head hang down between your extended arms. With your legs straight, try to push your heels down towards the ground. To make this easier, shift your weight to your left leg for a few seconds, then to your right, before balancing the weight between both. Hold this final position for 30 seconds or more, then bend your arms and legs to return to the kneeling position.
Calf Step Stretch
This stretch uses gravity to lengthen the gastrocnemius. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a solid step. Keeping your legs straight, allow your heels to drop as far down as possible. Relax, and try to deepen the stretch as you relax. To intensify the stretch, shift your weight over to one side and stretch one calf at a time. Hold your stretches for 30 seconds or more to improve your calf flexibility.
- "Stretching"; Bob Anderson and Jean Anderson; 2010
- "Yoga Anatomy"; Leslie Kaminoff, Sharon Ellis, and Amy Matthews, 2007
- ExRx.net: Kneeling Calf Stretch
- runners stretch image by LadyInBlack from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.