Being a trainer, coach and former athlete of all different sports, one of the more occurring things I hear about is clients and players calves getting tight. Now it really isn’t a surprise for most athletes to go through some calf tightness from time to time. I mean when you think about it, we use our calf muscles a lot through the day. Walking, getting out of bed, driving and even when laying down most of us are moving our feet around which tends to activate the muscles in the calf. So really it’s not a big surprise when athletes especially go through this because they put strenuous pressure on those muscles as they use them to make cuts, run and jump. Today I am going to show you 3 stretches you can do to help get rid of soreness in those calves!
I would like to start off with a brief story though. When I was entering my sophomore year of high school, I went to Marshall University for a football camp. The picture below was the head coach of the football team and I before the camp had started. When we were competing against each other at the end, I had a weird feeling in my calf. At that time I didn’t know what a tight muscle felt like. I kept playing through it cause it would go away after about 3-5 seconds of locking up. Eventually it caught up to me.. I had thrown a pass and dropped to the ground after, holding my calf. It was completely locked in one position and it wasn’t moving. One of the kids that was on my team had ran over, grabbed my leg and pushed my foot back to stretch it. It finally released and I went to the team trainers. The next week or two was a little rough, it was sore and I was icing it each day so I was ready for practice when I got back.
I have went through a few situations with my calves but I am telling you a story like this to let you know that I have been in that spot and experienced it. If I would have known what I do now, it would be a different ball game.
Now that story time is over, lets get into how you can fix up those tight calves with a few stretches!
This first one I am about to show you is pretty simple but I am going to explain a couple KEY things about this one. First of all, find a spot you can drive your heel into with keeping your toes up. This will put your foot into a dorsiflexion position. These stretches will be unilateral stretches so as we are stretching 1 calf at a time, make sure the leg is straight for this exercise. What that will do is stretch the big meaty part of the calf called the gastrocnemius muscle. My players love this one haha.
Next up will be a stretch to hit the soleus muscle which lies underneath the gastrocnemius. It is a little deeper so sometimes stretching different muscles in the calf can help depending on where the discomfort is. The thing you will want to notice about this stretch is the leg is NOT straight like the first one. The leg of the calve being stretched is slightly bent to help “turn off” the gastrocnemius and target the soleus.
A lot of times people may have some tightness in the front part of your calf around the shin area. This can be confused for shin splints at times. This usually tends to be a little tightness in the anterior tibialis. This stretch below will help stretch that muscle out.
The stretch will start off with you curling your toes and digging them into the ground slightly behind you. Next you will proceed with a forward shift of the knee which will begin the stretch.
With all of this being said, I’d like to clear up a few commonly asked questions about this topic.
How long do I hold the stretches?
For these stretches, I would do them 1-2 times each side depending on how tight you are in the calves. I would hold stretches from 20-30 seconds each time.
When should I perform these stretches?
I would perform these type of stretches after a game or competition. After practice and runs. If it is really bugging you before practice then I would try these stretches for about 20 seconds each leg. Sometimes getting a little movement can help though.
What if my calves are still tight and are bothering me after trying the stretches?
If your calves are still irritating you, I would first check form on the stretches to make sure you’re doing them correctly. If that is not the problem, I would just recommend you visit your athletic trainer and get his opinion. Sometimes you may think something is tight but it could be a start to a stress fracture so just to play it safe, get a healthcare professional or athletic trainer to double check.
Sometimes foam rollers, heat and rest can help with tight muscles as well. I will go into detail with that in a different article. Also dehydration can be a problem too, so make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
Thank you for reading todays article! I have been very busy lately so I haven’t been able to keep up with the content production of the website or the vlog. I will try to work a little extra to get you all some content this week, thank you for your patience! Hope everyone has a great Monday and starts the week off strong!