If you think that stretching is going to make you lose weight, think again. To accomplish weight loss, a sensible diet and a regular cardio and strength-training routine are more effective. Stretching can make you seem leaner, because it lengthens your muscles. It also aligns your joints so your posture improves, which can help you walk tall so that you appear slimmer. Calf stretches can be part of a full-body stretching routine. For optimal results and to prevent injuries, stretch at least twice a week and learn proper stretching technique.
Heel Drop Stretches
Heel drop stretches target either the gastrocnemius, which is the two-headed muscle that makes up the fleshy part of your calves, or the soleus, which runs from below your knee to your heels. During these stretches, you stand with your forefeet on the edge of a platform and slowly drop your heels as far as you can. After a 30-second hold, release the stretch and repeat it two times. If you keep your legs straight during this stretch, you target the gastrocnemius, and if you do the stretch with bended knees, you get a deeper stretch that targets the soleus. Heel drops can be done with both legs simultaneously or with one leg at a time.
Lunging Calf Stretches
During lunging calf stretches you stand with one leg in front of the other in a split stance. You can either place your hands on your hips, rest them on a wall in front of you or place them on the floor while bending over. The emphasis should be on the calf of your rear leg. Lean your upper body slightly forward and push the heel of your back foot down until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold this for 30 seconds before switching legs. Do the stretch three times on each leg. For a deeper stretch that targets the soleus instead of the gastrocnemius, bend the knee of the leg you're stretching instead of keeping it straight.
Toe Pull Stretches
Even if you can't reach your toes when sitting down with your legs extended, you can still stretch your calves by modifying the stretch. Instead of keeping your legs straight, bend your knees just enough so you can reach your toes with your hands. Flex your feet and gently push your heels forward as you pull your toes back. Hold the stretch in your soleus for 30 seconds and repeat it two times. To target the gastrocnemius, do the stretch with straight legs if you're able to.
Before stretching, warm up for 10 minutes so your muscles are more pliable; ride a bike or go for a light jog. Stretching without warming up your muscles can result in injuries. As you do calf stretches, never stretch to the point of pain, and hold each stretch without moving; bouncing while stretching can result in muscle tears. Avoid holding your breath; breathe through the stretches. Consult a doctor before starting a regular stretching routine, especially if you have medical conditions or injuries.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.