Thursday, 20 February 2014

Tight Calves?

No, not money pinching young cattle, but those bits between your ankle and your knee that give you jip when they get stiff and tight. Typically the way we stretch our calf muscles is to lean into a wall or fixed object, flexing the ankle with our leg nice and straight. A good, simple, static stretch, but with limits.

Firstly, it only really targets one of the major calf muscles, the gastrocnemius (that's the big one you can feel at the back and, when well defined, shows up as two large bellies of muscle either side of the back of the calf). You can stretch the deeper soleus muscle by making the same flexing movement but  with your knee bent. This switches the gastroc off, allowing to target the other muscle. The second disadvantage is that it's not necessarily the best way to to stretch pre-exercise. Recent research points to dynamic stretching as the better pattern for pre-exercise stretching. In fact some suggest that static stretching before exercise is positively bad for you and actually increases the risk of injury.

So, how can you stretch your calf muscles dynamically and target both the superficial and deep muscles efficiently?

Heres a link to a short blog post at Kinetic Revolution that shares a video to do just that. According to the video/post this routine can help with some shin splint issues and issues with both the achilles (calcaneal) tendon and plantar fascia (that's the soft tissue under the foot).

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