Calf and achilles tendon stretching should be incorporated into your general fitness routine. Regular stretching will keep your muscles, tendons, and joints supple, reducing the risk of picking up an injury.
Of course, if you are already suffering an injury you should see a qualified professional for advice, as stretching an injury can exacerbate the problem.
The calf and achilles tendon stretching examples below are easy to do and don’t require any special equipment. But you should make sure you use proper stretching techniques, otherwise you could end up doing some damage! There are two main muscles in the calf: the gastronemius and soleus. The soleus muscle can only be fully stretched when the knee is bent at about 90 degrees, which is why I’ve added in the bent knee calf stretch.
Leaning Wall Calf Stretch
The leaning wall calf stretch is probably my staple calf stretch. I always do this one as part of my post exercise cool down routine after any aerobic training as a passive stretch. All you need is a wall to lean against!
Simply stand a couple of feet away from a wall and place your left foot behind about 12 to 18 inches. Lean against the wall keeping your left foot flat on the floor and your leg straight. Remember to keep your feet pointing directly forward and don’t tilt your pelvis (keep it square to the wall). You should feel this stretch in your calf and achilles tendon. For a greater stretch, simply move your left foot a little further from the wall (or use the PNF stretch).
Then after your stretch, switch legs.
Heel Drop Calf Stretch
For this calf and achilles tendon stretch, all you need is a step or ledge.
Basically, with the ball of your foot on the edge of the step, drop your heel down so it is lower than the rest of your foot.
You should feel a good stretch right through your calf and achilles tendon.
Be careful though as this can be quite a gruelling stretch, as you are using your body weight to stretch out. Take it easy and gently apply the stretch. Don’t let your heel fall or bounce as this can increase the risk of injury substantially. Use the proper stretching techniques. You can do this stretch either both feet together or one at a time. I prefer doing them one at a time, as I can get a better stretch out of it.
Bent Knee Calf Stretch
This is the soleus stretch. I always feel this stretch in my achilles more than the belly of the muscle, so I take care to ease myself into it gently.
I always perform the leaning wall calf stretch before carrying out this stretch to let my muscles and tendons prepare for it. Using the wall or a chair for support (or no support at all), place one leg forward for support and bend the knee of the calf you want to stretch. Lean forward slightly until you feel the stretch in your calf and achilles.
Keep your feet and pelvis correctly aligned to prevent injury.
Final Stretching Pointers
There are different types of stretches. Take a look at the various stretching exercises to see how and why each are used. Make sure you do what’s right for your fitness goals. The stretches above are good for passive stretching, but you can also employ the PNF stretch for quicker results.
Remember though that whatever you do you should ensure you use proper stretching techniques to avoid injury. Stretching is meant to help you avoid injuries, not create them!