Calf Stretches and Strength Exercises

by Louise | April 27th, 2011 | Exercises, Running, Strength Training

If you ever have ankle, foot, or knee pain (who doesn’t?), it may be a result of weak calves. Calves are an overlooked group of muscles. We complain about feeling soreness or tightness in our calves, but we don’t always act on these issues. Strong and flexible calves will soften the shock to your ankles and feet upon impact during a run or any other active sport. The heavy burden on the ankles and feet, which would otherwise radiate up to the knees, is lessened.

In order to strengthen your calves, you don’t need any special machines or weights. Honestly, you don’t even need shoes! All you need is a step (either part of a stair case or some other raised platform) and a rail, or some other surface like a wall, for stability.

How to do calf raises and calf stretches:

Step onto the platform leaving the back half or third of your feet hanging over the edge. Lift one foot, balancing on the other. Rise onto your toes, including the ball of your foot, as high as you can (1 second), hold (1 second), and bring yourself back down (1 second), with the heel ultimately falling below the platform. Repeat as often as comfortable and try to increase the number of repetitions or sets each time. Try to keep the motions fluid throughout the exercise.

Stretching your calves is equally important. The calf is made up of two muscles: the gastrocnemius, the large outer muscle that we can see, and the soleus, the smaller, inner muscle. To stretch the large muscle, stand, with one leg forward,knee bent, and the other extended behind, with the sole of the foot firmly planted. Lean forward, using a wall for support if necessary, until you feel tension in the back leg, then hold for 20-30 seconds. Make sure both feet are pointed straight ahead. Stretch the soleus using the same procedure, but instead of extending the back leg, bend it, almost as if sitting down. Again, the back foot should remain firmly planted. This stretch should feel different from the first one.

Calf stretches and strengthening exercises are quick, simple, and can be performed almost anywhere. You could commit yourself to performing calf raises every time you make use of a particular set of stairs, perhaps those to your garage or the steps to your front door. Make them part of your workout, or better yet, your life.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.