5 Ways to Loosen Tight Calves
So you’ve finished your calf exercises, and now you’re looking for stretches to unwind. Is there anything wrong with cycling through the same calf muscle stretches you’ve been doing since middle school? No, not exactly. But considering your body and training plan have likely changed over the years, your long-standing routine may not include the best calf stretches for your current lifestyle. (Kudos, however, if you’re still dominating a daily game of dodge ball.)
For a more well-rounded approach to getting loose, add these lesser-known (but incredibly effective) calf muscle stretches to your fitness regimen. Your tight, achy, grown-up calves will thank you.
Timothy Lyman, certified personal trainer and director of training programs at FleetFeet Pittsburgh, recommends doing dynamic calf muscle stretches before exercising. “Dynamic calf muscle stretches not only help warm, loosen, and stretch the calf, but also the [connective tissues supporting the] foot, ankle, and Achilles tendon in preparation for higher-intensity efforts,” he says.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward with your right foot, planting your heel on the ground.
- Move your body forward by rolling up onto the toes of your right foot.
- As you bring your left foot forward, flatten your whole right foot against the ground.
- Plant your left heel, then roll up onto your left toes as you bring your right foot forward.
- Continue to walk forward using this heel-toe movement.
Seated Calf Stretch With Band
According to Alysa Boan, NASM-certified personal trainer at FitnessTrainer.com, you may get a deeper calf muscle stretch from a seated position. “Make sure you’re holding calf muscle stretches for at least 20-30 seconds and repeating 3-5 times,” she advises.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and plant your right foot on the ground.
- Loop a resistance band or belt around the ball of your left foot. You can also use a towel or a strap.
- Gripping the band, pull your left toes toward you until you feel a deep stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 20-30 seconds before releasing the stretch.
- Repeat on the right side.
Segment Hip Swing
The sensation of tight calf muscles may actually originate in your ankles, says Shana R. Hogg, CPT, founder of Way Beyond Fitness. “What some believe to be ‘calf tightness’ is actually due to glued-down fascial tissue in the anterior compartment of the ankle,” she explains. “The segment hip swing focuses on improving extensibility (the tissue’s ability to lengthen) of the ankle complex as a whole.”
- Keeping your arms straight, place the palms of your hands against a wall at shoulder height.
- Shift your weight onto your right foot, allowing a soft bend in your right knee.
- Pointing your toes, reach your left foot across your body and toward the wall in front of you as you shift your weight into your right hip. Keep your left foot low to the ground.
- Bring your left foot back across the body and, keeping your toes pointed, reach it away from your body and toward the wall. Reach with both your foot and hip.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat 4-5 times, moving slowly, before switching sides.
Heel Drop With Rotation
Mary Badon, MD, owner of SOMA Movement Studio in Unionville and West Hartford, Connecticut, suggests adding a rotational element to the standard heel drop calf muscle stretch. “It’s important to stretch all the fibers of a muscle, not just the fibers oriented in a single direction,” she explains. Additionally, alternating between bent and straight legs emphasizes different calf muscles.
- Stand with just the balls of your feet on a step, bench, or box so that your heels are hanging over the edge. Hold onto a railing or other stable surface for support.
- Straighten your knees.
- Circle your ankles clockwise and down five times. Repeat in a counter-clockwise direction.
- Bend your knees.
- Again, circle your ankles clockwise and down five times. Repeat in a counter-clockwise direction.
With just a few adjustments, the forward bend becomes one of the best calf stretches you can do. Lynell Ross, ACE-CPT, managing editor of Zivadream, advises against bouncing or pushing too hard, though. “Make sure you only stretch to the point of a little discomfort. If you feel pain, stop.”
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- As you fold forward at your waist and reach for your toes, bend your right knee slightly while keeping your left leg straight.
- Hold for 30 seconds before straightening your right leg and then bending your left knee. Hold for 30 seconds.