How to stretch the calves.

Posted by & filed under Exercise and Training.

Calves get tight.  There are 2 ways of stretching them effectively, dynamic and static.  The first way involves a step or stairs with something to hang onto.

  1. Stand on the step and hold onto the something – banister or wall – with each hand.
  2. Lift up both heels and count to 5 elephants.
  3. Lower the heels so the feet are flat on the step and stay there for a nano-second.
  4. Then shuffle backwards so the heels are hanging over the edge of the step.
  5. Gently lower the heels towards the floor, hanging on to the support with the hands.  Hold that for 5 seconds.
  6. Shuffle back onto the step and stay there for a nano-second.  Then repeat.
  7. Do 3 – 5 times.

This method contracts the muscle first, then you briefly relax it on the step, then sink the heels into the stretch.  This way the muscle is encouraged to relax, and by pausing briefly between contraction and relaxation, the muscles can really let go.  The reason for hanging on is to stop any wobbling about.  In order to stretch a muscle, the muscle needs to be inactive1. It is completely counterproductive to stretch a muscle if it is busy keeping us balanced at the same time.

  • This type of stretching should be done pre-exercise.

The second type of calf stretch involves standing on a shallow wedge, with toes higher than the heels.  Stay here for 5 minutes or so.  The stretch should be mild and not strong.  At the end of the 5 minutes, there should be no sense of stretch. Calves, like hamstrings, respond to gentle stretching.

  • This type of stretching should be done away from exercise.

Both types of exercise should also be done with the knees bent, which stretches the deeper calf muscle, the soleus.

The calf stretches that are done facing a wall, with the hands on the wall and one leg stretched out behind, heel down, are pointless.  The position cannot be held for long enough to achieve a static stretch  and neither can a dynamic stretch be had in this position.


  1. Well, OK.  There are stretching techniques when the muscle is slightly contracted as it is stretched – but this is still not the same as the muscle being busy doing a job – in this case stabilising us. []

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