Your calf, which is made up of two separate muscles, is one of the most useful parts of the body for walking, running and doing virtually any daily activity that involves getting around. Because of this, stiffness and cramps in the calf muscles can put a damper on your daily routine, especially when it comes to exercising. If you're experiencing stiff calf muscles or if you want to prevent injuries, try out some exercise machines to help stretch and strengthen the muscles.
Standing Calf Raise Machines
Calf raise machines are easy to use and are effective for strengthening and stretching your calves in a dynamic way, and they're easy to spot in the gym. These machines have a raised platform where you stand on the balls of your feet, with your heels hanging off. Place your shoulders under the shoulder pads, then raise your heels by extending your ankles as high as possible. Lower your heels as far as you can to fully stretch the large muscle in your calf, which is also called the gastrocnemius.
The main source of tightness and pain in your calf is probably going to be your gastrocnemius, but the smaller soleus is a supporting muscle that also needs attention. Seated calf raise machines target this muscle, allowing the larger calf muscle to relax. If you're into bicycle machines, you can stretch out your calves on one just by flexing your ankle forward and back as you pedal.
Calf raise machines are some common ways to stretch out your calves, but there are other machines that can help. Rockers, or pro stretch devices allow you to place your foot onto the pads and rock back and forth, dynamically stretching your calf as you flex and relax the muscle in both directions. You might also want to try stair climbers, which can give you a light, controlled stretch.
Working your calves too hard is an obvious cause of tightness and pain. You might feel fine during your morning jog, only to have your calves lock up a little while after. You don't need machines to stretch your calves. Wall stretches, lunge stretches and other exercises are effective without the use of equipment. When stretching, hold the stretch for about 30 seconds to get the most out of it.
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