Exercising, taking the stairs regularly and wearing high heels can all lead to tight calf muscles. These muscles at the back of the lower leg can also get tight and stiff in cold weather or from a deficiency of magnesium, according to Nutros.com. The Achilles tendon connects the calves to the ankles and is susceptible to tightness and even possible rupture from jumping activities, particularly during sports play. Keep your lower legs in tip-top shape by incorporating good stretches for the calves and Achilles tendon into your daily exercise regimen.
Stretch both the calves and Achilles tendon by doing a standing wall stretch. Begin by standing in front of a wall with your left leg forward and knee bent. Your right leg should be straightened behind you with heel on the floor. Place your hands on the wall in front of you at about shoulder height and shoulder-width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles to help support your lower back as you gently push into the wall while lengthening the back leg to feel a stretch in the back of the lower leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds before switching legs.
The soleus muscle is a lower calf muscle underneath the larger gastrocnemius heads that form your shapely lower leg. Stretch this muscle in a similar manner to a standing wall stretch by standing in front of a wall with hands placed on the wall in front of you at about shoulder height. Keep your left leg in front of you with knee bent as you straighten your right leg behind you, keeping your heel on the ground. Slowly, bend the knee of the back leg slightly until you feel a stretch in the lower calf region. Always maintain heel contact with the floor. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds before returning to start position and repeating on the other side.
Try doing a heel drop exercise to stretch the calves and Achilles. Find a set of stairs and stand on them with the heel of your left foot off the edge. Standing tall with belly muscles tight, slowly start to drop the left heel until you feel a stretch in the back of the left calf muscle and Achilles tendon. Hold for approximately 20 to 30 seconds before returning to start position and switching legs.
The half lunge is a good way to stretch the gastrocnemius heads of the calf muscles, the soleus and the Achilles tendon. Start by standing tall with your left leg approximately six inches in front of the right. Slowly start to bend both knees as you lower your body toward the ground. Always keep the front knee over your ankle for proper alignment, proper stretching and to avoid knee injury. Hold for approximately 20 seconds before returning to start and switching legs. You should feel a stretch in the lower calf region as well as the Achilles with this exercise.
- Dr. Ben Kim: How to Prevent and Treat Achilles Tendonitis
- Stretch to Win; Ann & Chris Frederick
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.