Calf cramps are like a red, warning light on the dashboard in your car that those muscles need stretching to alleviate the constant muscle contraction. These cramps often occur in the gastrocnemius , which is the large calf muscle below the back of the knee to your heel tendon. Using a calf board for stretching can provide immediate relief for those aching calves. Most calf boards allow you to adjust the angle to suit your flexibility. The angle often ranges between 30 to 45 degrees.
Place a calf board on the floor about 6 to 8 inches from a wall. Put your right foot on the board, and put your left foot on the floor with your toes a few inches in front of the board.
Put your hands against the wall and shift your weight slightly onto your left foot while keeping your right foot planted on the board. You should feel a stretch mostly in the upper calves.
Hold the stretch for five to six deep breaths. Do not bounce or hunch your back as you hold the position. Switch leg positions and stretch the opposite calf.
- If stretching isn't enough to alleviate muscle cramps, then you may have a deficiency in potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium or carbohydrates since these nutrients play a major role in muscle contraction and maintaining fluid balance in your cells, according to dietitian Enette Larson-Meyer, author of "Vegetarian Sports Nutrition."
- Besides stretching your calves, move your ankles and knees to improve circulation and tissue mobility, such as doing standing ankle rolls and active hamstring stretching by flexing and extending your knee from a standing or supine position.
- Bend your knee slightly to emphasize the soleus muscle, which lies beneath the gastrocnemius.
- Do not stretch if you feel pain in your calf, foot, ankle or knee. Check with your health-care provider before resuming your training. Stretching too quickly and too much can cause your calves to undergo a stretch reflex, which is an involuntary contraction of your muscles and joints that protects the tissues from tearing. It causes the tissues to be less responsive to length change and increases the tenderness.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.