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05.08.2022

STRETCHING CALVES AFTER RUNNING – HOW TO DO IT CORRECTLY AND COMPREHENSIVELY

STRETCHING CALVES AFTER RUNNING – HOW TO DO IT CORRECTLY AND COMPREHENSIVELY

The calves are another important group of muscles for runners. Yes, you hear that right – muscles, not a single muscle. Calves consist of gastrocnemius and soleus muscle which terminate by the Achilles tendon. You should take care of them properly because they work really hard during training. Below, you will find out how to stretch calf muscles properly. 

Why is it important to stretch calves after running?

To answer this question, it is important to remember the core of the calf stretching exercises after running. Thanks to this:

  • muscles contracted during running, return to their proper length,
  • their range of motion increases,
  • muscle fibers become more flexible, and thank that muscles can grow and be more efficient,
  • you are increasing your fitness and improving your workout results, 
  • you prevent contractures and injuries during consecutive training sessions.

The calves are quite heavily engaged during running. With the above point in mind, you should take care of its proper stretching. 

Stretching calves is very important. Focus on it, especially when you want to start doing uphill running. You will have a hard time running uphill having a contracted triceps surae muscle. You won’t have a full range of motion, and you’ll feel something pulling and putting resistance in your calf. It is a straightforward way to an injury that will exclude you from running for a long time. 

If you do the calf muscle stretching exercises, they will have the proper flexibility and full range of motion that will allow you to run uphill safely. 

What is more, neglecting to stretch the soleus muscle can lead to pain in the ankle and in the Achilles tendon.

Stretching calves after running
Stretch your calves after running to prevent injury.

Calf stretches after running – exercises

The following calf stretching exercises provide relaxation for both: gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Do them slowly and with sensitivity. First, assume the position until you feel resistance, then hold it for 20-30 seconds. When you feel the stretch muscle relaxing, you can deepen the opposition to the limit of pain and hold it for another 30 seconds. Then return to the starting position and relax. Repeat such stretching 2-3 times for each leg. 

How to stretch calf muscle – Gastrocnemius in a standing position

Version I

Find a wall or a tree that you can use to rest your hand on. Stand from them at a distance of outstretched arms. Put your hands on the wall/tree, and put one of your legs forward. Begin to bend your knee in the leg that is in front so that the heels do not move from the ground (it is very important!) Move your torso forward while bending your arms. You will feel a stretch in the back leg. This will be precisely the gastrocnemius muscle calf. 

If you have nothing to lean on, you can stand in a crouch and rest your hands on the knee of the extended forward leg, then do the movement described above. It is an alternative version if you are in a place where there is nothing to help you with these calf stretching exercises. 

Version II

This time you have to find a step, elevation, or tree. Put one of your legs forward so that your toes are resting on the elevation, step, or tree trunk and the heels are resting on the ground. Keep your body weight on a slightly bent leg, that is behind. Then, without moving your feet, move your torso slightly forward. Do not bend the front leg at the knee.

The soleus muscle in a standing position 

Version I

Take a step and stand in this position – with one leg behind, the other in front. Bend the knees of both legs, moving the torso forward. Your feet should fully touch the ground. You should feel a stretch in the back leg.

Version II 

There is also another way to stretch the calf muscle. Find elevation to support yourself. Stand in front of it in a straddle – one leg extended forward. The toes of this leg rest against elevation and your heel rests on the ground. The knees of both legs should be straight. Then bend the knee of your front and back leg, bending the torso forward. 

NOTE: As you can see, the described calf muscle stretching exercises for the soleus muscle are very similar to the gastrocnemius muscle. However, when stretching the gastrocnemius, the leg is straightened at the knee. 

On the other hand, when you want to stretch the soleus muscle you bend that leg. If you’re not convinced that just bending your knee is enough to really stretch your muscle, then do these exercises – first with the knee straight and then bend. You will certainly feel that slightly different areas are being stretched. In the first place, you will feel resistance on the outside of your calf and then more in the depths of the calf. 

Version III

Do you wonder how to stretch calf muscles in another way? We got you! Do you have a staircase near you? Great. You can use them in this exercise. Stand on the step so that your heels are in the air and your body weight rests on your toes. Then lower your heels and bend your knees slightly. To keep your balance, hold on to the banister. In this exercise, in addition to the soleus muscle, you also stretch the tibialis posterior muscle and long toe flexor muscles.

Calf stretches after running – gastrocnemius muscle in the sitting position

When it comes to stretching calf muscles, you can do it also in a sitting position. Sin on the mat with one leg straight with the foot pointed upwardly, and the other leg bent at the knee. Grasp the toes of the straight leg and pull them towards you. 

calf muscle stretching exercises
After running – remember to stretch your calves.

Calf stretching exercises – soleus muscle in the sitting position 

Stay in the same position, but this time grasp the toes of the bent leg and pull upward and towards you. While doing so, do not pull your heel away from the ground. 

If you want the scratching to be effective, you should allocate time for this kind of exercise after running, and do it as a separate training unit for 30-50 minutes once a week. 

If you feel that your calves are tight after running, do the stretching slowly and very carefully, so as not to aggravate the microtrauma created during training. You can also perform a self-massage of the tense triceps muscle with a roller before the stretch itself. Pre-relaxed muscles will be easier for you to stretch and, above all, safer. 

Now you know how to do calf stretches after running. Remember that stretching calves helps with recovery after running – and what are the other things you can do to support your body after running to heal faster? Check out our article: Recovery after running – how to improve it? 10 running recovery tips!

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