Have you noticed that your calves are tight no matter how much you stretch them? You may be stretching only one of the muscles that make up your calves. Let’s go through a little anatomy lesson. Coming up from your heel is a thick band of tissue that makes up your Achilles tendon. As you move up the Achilles tendon it splits into two separate muscles, the Soleus and the Gastrocnemius. The deeper of these two muscles is the Soleus, it comes up and attaches directly below the knee joint. Then the larger gastrocnemius runs up the lower leg and attaches just above the knee joint on the back side of the leg.
If you stretch out your calf muscles only one way then it is likely you are only stretching one of these muscles and not the other! The most common calf stretch is one where you lean up against the wall staggering your feet and leaving the back leg straight with your foot flat on the ground like the picture below.
This stretch will often be felt up toward the top of the calf or the back of the knee because you are mainly stretching the Gastrocnemius in this position.
To ensure stretching of both muscles of the calf you will need to perform another stretch, in which you will bend the back knee to feel the stretch down toward the bottom of your calf. This stretch is pictured below.
The difference between these two stretches is minimal, but you when performed can make a huge difference in how your calves feel afterwards. Below is an image including these stretches side by side. In both pictures it is the back leg that is being stretched. On the left her leg is straight biasing the gastrocnemius and on the right her knee is bent stretching more of the soleus. So get out there and stretch those calves like they have never been stretched before!
Need more guidance on proper stretching, or maybe even some hands on mobility work? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment today!