What are calf muscles and where is it located?
The calf muscles are situated behind the lower leg and it runs from the knee up to the lower leg. The calf contains the gastrocnemius muscle that gives it the round shape and the Soleus muscle which is flat and long that runs below the gastrocnemius muscle. Most people develop stiff calf muscles due to exercising too much, insufficient stretching, or overactivity.
Calf muscles when stretched get rid of any pain or soreness. Stretching provides relief to the calf muscles from pain caused due to electrolytes, fluids, and nutrition deficiencies. In some cases, calf pain can result in serious conditions like peripheral vascular disease and deep vein thrombosis. These conditions require immediate medical attention. But otherwise simple stretching can help.
How to strengthen the calf muscles?
Exercises like running, walking, trekking, etc. are excellent exercises for calf muscles. Hiking can also be a good exercise to strengthen your calf muscles. Strengthening along with calf stretches gives a balanced structure to the calf muscles. Generally, those who climb uphill develop stronger calf muscles. The more steep the slope is, the harder it is for the calf muscles. Trying sports like basketball, football and tennis accelerate your calf muscles due to the jumping and quick change of direction.
5 best calf stretches that can be done at home
Calf stretches are easy and don’t need a specific trainer to do them. You can do them from the comfort of your very own home. Overtraining and improper biomechanics can tighten your calf muscles. Those with an injury can try swimming to strengthen the calf muscles as it has a low impact unlike running and jumping and is a safe way to strengthen the calf muscles. One has to do calf stretches to loosen them and relieve the stress in that area.
Calf muscle stretches without the help of a wall
While doing calf stretches without a wall, just stand straight with one leg in front of the other. Put your entire body weight on the front leg. Do this by keeping the back heel pressed to the floor. Hold it for about 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat the same for the opposite leg. Make sure you feel the stretch down your calf muscle to the heel. It is important to stretch yourself after home workouts.
Calf muscle stretches with the help of a wall
Calf stretches with the help of a wall are quite easy. All you have to do is just find a plain wall where you can stand freely and have enough space to stretch your arms and legs. Stand facing the wall and about an arm's length away from it. Let your right leg be in front and the left leg at the back. Reach both your hands to the wall. Bend your front leg and at the same time press the heel of your back leg onto the floor. Stay in the same position for about 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat the calf stretch on the other side.
Towel stretch is one of the easiest calf stretch exercises after lower body workouts. The only equipment you need is a small hand towel. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched, toes facing the sky and back straight. Loop the towel around the ball of one foot and hold both ends of the towel. Pull the towel towards your body while you keep your legs straight. Stay in the same position for about 30 seconds. Do at least 3 repetitions on one side before you go to the other leg. In this stretch, the calf muscle is being pulled to release the tightness and stay free. The intensity of the stretch can be controlled by the pulling force you put on the towel. Try doing these stretches after hectic leg exercises.
Heel cord stretches with a bent knee
This calf stretch requires a wall or a chair. Stand facing the wall or chair. Keep one leg in front and the other behind. Slightly bend the back knee and point the toes inward. Also, keep hands pressed on the wall or chair. Keeping both heels flat on the ground, press your hips towards the wall or chair. Hold on for 30 seconds in the same position. Repeat on the opposite side too. Make sure you keep your hip centered over your feet while doing these calf muscle stretches. Also do not lean to one side.
This is one of the best calf stretches where you just need a table too or a chair for support. Hold on to the chair or tabletop and stand with your body weight equally distributed between both legs. Bend one knee and slowly lift the foot of the same knee. The position will be such that the entire body weight falls on the other leg. Raise the heel as high as possible and lower it. Keep repeating this movement at least ten times before you move to the other leg.
Ankle dorsiflexion / Plantarflexion
Plantarflexion is a calf muscle stretch where you sit on the floor with legs straight and toes facing the sky. Take an elastic band and loop it between one leg. Hold the ends of the elastic and pull them to stretch the calf muscle. The calf stretches while sitting is quite easier than the others. However, the intensity of the stretch depends on the pulling force of the elastic. While using this elastic band, ensure it gives comfortable resistance to the movements.
Ankle dorsiflexion is again a similar process, but you won’t hold the band with your hands. Instead, the elastic is looped to a leg of any furniture. Place your toe inside the loop and pull your toe towards yourself to feel the stretch on the calf muscle.
Repeat these movements about 10 times before you exchange your legs.
Calf muscle stretches should be done at least alternate days for those who are into athletics and sports. Relaxing these muscles relieves the strain and tightness giving good flexibility to the body.