Exercises > Flexibility (Muscles) > Calf Stretches
(Main muscles involved: Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Tibialis Posterior)
The following calf stretches are designed to improve the flexibility of the calf muscles (Figure 1). You should discuss the suitability of these calf stretches with your physiotherapist prior to commencing them.
To begin with, the calf stretches should be held for 15 seconds and repeated 4 times at a mild to moderate stretch pain free. Generally you should choose one or two calf stretches that feel comfortable for you and performed them 3 times daily. As your flexibility improves, the calf stretches can be progressed by increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of the stretches provided they are pain free.
Figure 1 – The Calf Muscles
Basic Calf Stretches
Calf Stretch with Towel
Begin this calf stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your foot as demonstrated (figure 2). Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon or leg. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free.
Figure 2 – Calf Stretch with Towel
Calf Stretch (Soleus)
Begin this calf stretch with your hands against the wall and your leg to be stretched in front of you as demonstrated (figure 3). Keep your heel down. Gently move your knee forward over your toes until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf or Achilles tendon (figure 3). Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times at a mild to moderate stretch pain free.
Figure 3 – Calf Stretch (Soleus) (right leg)
Calf Stretch (Gastrocnemius)
Begin this calf stretch with your hands against the wall and your leg to be stretched behind you as demonstrated (figure 4). Keep your heel down, knee straight and feet pointing forwards. Gently lunge forwards until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf or knee (figure 4). Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 4 times at a mild to moderate stretch pain free.
Figure 4 – Calf Stretch (Gastrocnemius) (left leg)
Advanced Calf Stretches
Calf Self Massage Exercises
The following calf self massage exercises are designed to improve the flexibility of the calf muscles and are an excellent addition to the above calf stretches. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to commencing them.
Foam Roller Calf Releases
Place the foam roller under your calves as demonstrated (figure 9). Using your arms, slowly move your body forward and backwards allowing the foam roller to massage the back of your lower legs. Breathe normally keeping your legs relaxed. Repeat this process for 15 – 90 seconds provided it is comfortable and does not cause pain. This exercise can be progressed by crossing your legs and massaging one calf at a time (figure 10).
Figure 9 – Foam Roller Calf Release
Figure 10 – Foam Roller Calf Release (Legs Crossed)
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