Tight calves are common problems among athletes and active people, especially for people who run a lot or walk a lot. Tight calves could cause knee pain, ankle pain, a decrease in ankle mobility, restricted movement and worst case scenario, a torn achilles tendon.
Stretching is one of if not the most efficient way of treating and preventing tight calves, though a lot of people find it hard to perform effective calf stretches. Calf muscles are responsible for walking thousands of steps every day for an average individual. Thus they are very strong and can bear tremendous loads. Here are some techniques you can incorporate to get better results, relax your muscles, and prevent injuries.
Foam roller calf smash
A calf smash uses a contract/relax method. It can help you to relax the tight and stiff muscles and reduces knee pain, ankle pain, and poor ankle position. Place your Achilles tendon or calf muscle on the foam roller while sitting, find the tender spots, and gently push your weight into the roller. Then try the contract and relax method, tightening and loosening the muscle and let the roller massage the stiff muscle in this process. You can also try to lift your body off the ground if you need more pressure.
Calf smashing with a foam roller is the “softest” method regarding pain and discomfort during the exercise. We strongly encourage you to start with this one and ease into it.
Barbell calf smash
Using a barbell is similar to using a foam roller, though it allows you to have more pinpoint pressure on the tender spots. The key is to find those tender spots and focus on them. Contract and relax the muscle, roll the barbell back and forth to grind the tissue, apply more pressure if necessary by lifting the rest of your body off the ground. It’s going to hurt more, so again, start with caution and get used to the foam roller before trying this technique.
Adding a resistance band to you typical calf stretch can make a regular stretch into an excellent one. The band increases ankle mobilization, thus making the stretch more effective. Ideally, you want to get your hip, knee and foot in good alignment (hip/knee and foot in a straight line), second toe in a straight line with your knee. But you can also try to rotate your foot to find a sore point, and stretch that direction. Be careful with this last point and be sure to contact us if you have any questions first.
Calf stretch on an elevated platform
Standing on a higher platform can also increase the effectiveness of a standard calf stretch. Stand on a solid object, toe pointing straight ahead and knee straight. Slowly lower your heel until you can feel the stretch, stay at the bottom position for 30 seconds, and repeat on both legs. The best part of it is you can do it in almost anywhere, you can do it during and after running or workouts to relax your calves. One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to overstretch, which is also not good for your muscles.
As always, please contact us if you have any questions, especially if you’re new to exercising. If you’re ever unsure about something, it’s easier to ask a question, then to rehab an injury. Good luck and keep active!