Welcome back to Stretch-mas! For day 7, we are going to work through a calf stretch! There’s a chance you’ve seen quite a few variations of this stretch, so today, we’re going to show you our go-to versions and why we use them!
Why are there so many different versions of this stretch?
This is a popular stretch, so there’s a good chance you’ve seen or done at least a few different variations of this stretch. And if you’ve done enough of these, you’ll know they don’t all have the same effect… but why is that?
What many people may not realize is that your calf is not actually a single muscle, but actually a group of muscles! The Gastrocnemius muscle is a two headed muscle that starts at your femur and connects down to your Achilles tendon. This is the muscle that you can feel if you touch your calves. Underneath your Gastrocnemius muscle is the soleus muscle. This muscle starts a bit lower on the leg (at the fibula), but also connects at the Achilles tendon. Both muscles work together any time you bend your knee or point your toes.
But why does that matter?
Like we said before, calf stretches are not one-size-fits-all. Have you ever felt like a calf stretch didn’t reduce your pain or tightness the way you expected it to? There’s a chance that the calf stretch you did didn’t activate your whole calf! Between the two head of the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus muscle, many stretches are not adapted to work all parts of your calf. That’s why when we show you the calf stretch, our goal is to help you stretch the entire area!
For this stretch, you’ll want to start near a table, countertop, or other stable surface. You will also want a rolled-up towel. This towel will angle your foot to increase the stretch.
Start by placing the ball of the foot that you want to stretch on the towel roll. During this exercise you should keep your heel planted on the ground. Once you have placed your foot, take a step with the opposite leg, placing it in front of the towel roll.
Next, slowly lean your hips forward. At this point, you should feel a stretch throughout the calf. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three to five times on each leg.
Not enough of a stretch? Try this progression!
Keep the heel of the foot on the towel roll on the ground as you slowly reach your opposite leg across your body.
Hold this position briefly before returning to your starting position. Continue sweeping your leg across the body for 30 seconds and repeat three to five times on each leg.
Instead of using multiple exercises to target each part of the calf, this stretch is a great way to engage the entire thing! Try adding this stretch to your fitness routine, and you will notice an improvement throughout the calf.
Ready for more? Come back tomorrow for the Upper Spinal Twist!