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Dr. Lara Johnson, PT, DPT, MS – Rehabilitation, Injury Prevention, and Sports Training. Located in Boulder, Colorado
Calf Stretch Quick Tip
March 29, 2012Posted by on
I have found myself helping several people with their calf stretch technique over the past couple of weeks. Stretching the calf area is important for preventing continued muscle shortening, and during rehab for conditions such as plantar fasciitis and other foot or ankle problems. When we perform a calf stretch we are affecting the gastrocnemius muscle, soleus muscle (especially if the knee is bent), as well as the achilles tendon or heel cord, and connective tissue. When most of us think of stretching a muscle we think of needing to feel that stretch. I noticed for example, while stretching with the aid of a slant board, many individuals tend to stand over the the board with a mega-slant angle to try to use their body weight to force a bigger stretch in those posterior lower leg muscles.
Here is a variation, and a potentially safer way to stretch the gastroc-soleus complex: Scoot the slantboard back from the wall so that you have room for your other, non-stretching leg to step forward while the back leg is still on the board (feel free to lower the angle of the slant for this). This allows your muscle to relax a little more, and puts you in a more function-friendly position (think stepping or walking). Try it out and you can be the judge of whether you like it better. If you don’t have or use a slantboard, then try taking a small hand weight (2 to 5 pounds is sufficient) on which to rest your forefoot. You can use anything that is a similar height, such as a book, half-step or half-curb, a rock outside, or whatever you may find. Allow that muscle to relax rather. And it is okay to not feel the stretch- this means you are elongating the muscle into it’s natural range of motion rather than the muscle acting to resist. Good luck- keep those lower legs loose and healthy!