Calf Stretches: 5 Easy Calf Stretches To Build Bigger Calves And Improve Range Of Motion

Stretching your calves is always best practice before going on a long run or hitting a heavy and high volume set of box jumps in your high-intensity workout. But what are the best calf stretches to improve your flexibility and make those legs less prone to a strain or injury? We’re going to discuss some of the most common and effective calf stretches so you can loosen up those calves before your workout.

Calf Muscles 

Compared to your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, the calves are a smaller muscle group and often neglected when you’re warming up for a kick-ass and sweat infused workout session.

The calves are composed of two different muscles that work together to give your toes and feet mobility. the gastrocnemius, which is the large part you probably think of as your calf muscle, and the soleus, which lies underneath it and is less noticeable. Your calves connect to the posterior aspect of you knee and heel. Interestingly, a small muscle called the plantaris also runs between the gastrocnemius muscle and soleus, but only around 10% of the population has one.

Causes Of Calf Tightness

When your calves have a limited amount of movement, or range of motion throughout the day, (I.e. sitting at desk or working remote) your calves amongst other muscles in your body can become tight. Your shoes also play a significant role in your calf tension. High heels for example and stiff running shoes, can limit your range of motion. When your calves are in a limited range of motion, and the foot is not allowed to efficiently roll from the heel to the ball of the foot, your muscle fibers become acclimated to a shortened lengthening in movement. With restricted movement, muscles can become tighter and tighter.

The problem with tight calves, is that it can severely limit your ankle mobility and can lead to more serious issues with your exercise form and inhibit your movement in training.

Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, knee pain, plantar fasciitis can all originate from tight calf muscles.

Best Calf Stretches

1. Inch Worms

A great dynamic and standing calf stretch are inch worms. Dynamic stretches are a controlled movement which adequately preps or warms up your muscles, as opposed to a static stretch, which is achieving a certain range of motion and holding that position. Placing your hands directly in front of your toes, inch worms move from a standing position, and walk your hands no front of you until you’re in plank position. From there you reverse and walk your hands back.

How To Do Inch Worms

  • Start standing with feet hips-width apart.
  • Hinge at the hips to fold forward, reaching your palms to the floor in front of you.
  • With your core braced and legs straight (but not locked), walk your hands forward to come to a high plank position.
  • Pause, then reverse the movement to walk your hands back to your feet and stand to return to starting position.

2. Downward Dog 

Similar to the inch worm, downward dog is a remarkable and effective calf stretch. Down dog is a static stretch that places the hips high and pulls the hamstrings and calves effectively to reduce tightness and tension throughout the posterior chain.

How To Do Downward Dog

  • Start by standing with feet shoulder width apart
  • Place your arms straight down in front of your toes and get on all fours in a tabletop position.
  • Walk your hands out and lift hips up and back, gently straightening legs to move into downward dog.
  • Bend both knees slightly, reaching your tailbone and pelvis toward the ceiling and belly button tucked
  • Hold for 10 seconds, trying to lift and set your heel all the way on the ground.

3. Standing Calf Raise

The standing calf stretch is perhaps the most common and well-known stretch to quickly loosen up tight calves. A simple flexion to the balls of your toes, will contract your calf muscles and help with any increased tension. 

How To Standing Calf Raise

  • Standing and leaning against a wall, slowly roll unto the ball of your foot.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then slowly release and come back down.
  • Repeat this movement for 15-20 reps and switch sides.

4. Double Seated Calf Raise

The double seated calf stretch, is another common calf stretch and one of the few that can be weighted. Some calf stretches can double down as calf exercises, such as the standing calf stretch or raise, and the seated calf stretch or raise. 

How To Double Calf Stretch

  • Sitting on a bench slowly roll unto the ball of both feet at the same time.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then slowly release and come back down.
  • Repeat this movement for 15-20 reps and switch sides.

5 Standing Calf Stretch

The standing calf raise is a relatively straight forward calf stretch. Simply stand, lean, and cross one foot behind the other to elongate your calf muscles to create tension and relieve tightness. 

How To Standing Calf Stretch

  • Lean against a wall, position your body at a 45 degree angle
  • Straighten both legs, and cross one foot hooked over and behind one heel
  • Lean and try to stretch your calves and hold
  • Repeat and switch sides

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