Tight muscles are a common problem and calves are not an exception. The calves are the back side of your lower legs and used for everything you do standing up. Tight calves can hamper your performance, create discomfort and interfere with your daily life. In this article we go trough common causes, how you can avoid it and how to fix it.
Related: Calf machine
Common causes of tight calves
1. High heels
High heels are sexy, perfect for a party or nice dinner, but if you wear them every day you are looking for trouble. When you wear heels your calf is in a constant state of contraction. In plain english that means that i is in a shortened position. This might not be problem once in a while, but wearing heels to work might not be the best idea. If your calves are in that position for too long too often, that will become its normal position.
2. Weightlifting shoes
Weightlifting shoes are quite debated, some swear by them and some say it is very bad for you. The problem that may arise comes from wearing weightlifting shoes that are built up under the heel. The problems are the same as with the high heels that the calf will be in a contracted position. Some people need a higher heel to squat properly so a way of going around the problem would be to only use these kind of shoes when doing squats and flat shoes when doing your other workouts. Also work on calf flexibility to be able to perform regular squats with a flat sole shoe.
3. Keep moving!
If you don’t workout, run or walk regularly you are doing yourself a disservice. Our bodies are meant to move otherwise they lose functionality! This is especially true if you are older. Think of your calves like a car, if it just sits in the garage for a long time it is usually a little hard to get it firing properly, so go get your calves up and running again by going for a walk!
4. No stretching
If you run a lot, especially on hard surfaces it puts a strain on your calves. Every step you take the calf contract and when hitting a ground that is hard it contracts even harder to mitigate the bounce. Do a little stretching after every run or long walk and it makes a huge difference. Just a little is usually enough as long as you do it with consistency.
5. Hydration and nutrients
For your body to work properly you need to be hydrated. Most people drink too little water each day. So go for at least the recommended 8 glasses per day. Some nutrients are also very important to keep your muscles loose, these are calcium, potassium and magnesium. So look over your diet and check so you get enough of these. Otherwise you can use a supplement if you think that is more convenient.
So we wrote that you should use your calves regularly so this might sound confusing but remember to take rest when needed. Your body needs rest to recover and grow. When tight muscles or pain appear it is the body’s way of telling you to take a step back. So go back in your training journal and look when you took a rest or deload week last. If it way more than 8 weeks ago it might be time. If you don’t want to skip working out completely, try something new like yoga or exchange running for walking or swimming for a week then come back refreshed and better than ever. Remember to stretch your problem areas during you rest or deload week to increase the recovery of that part.
So the things listed above are to prevent tight calves from happening, but you are already there? This is how you fix it by stretching:
1. Stand with one foot in front of the other with both feet planted to the floor. Start leaning forward keeping the back leg straight, keep the whole back foot on the floor at all times. When you feel a stretch in the calf hold that position for about 40 seconds, do it 2 to 4 times on each leg.
2. Stand with one foot in front of the other with your toes lifted slightly against a wall and your heel planted on the floor on the front foot. Start leaning forward slowly so you feel a stretch in the calf, hold that position for 40 seconds. Do that 2 to 4 times for each leg.
3. Stand on a weight plate, staircase or anything else that can elevate you from the floor. Put your both you feet on the edge with the front half the foot on the platform of your choice and the back half hanging out over the edge. Start lowering your heels down as far as you feel comfortable, stay there and then start lower a bit more, go slowly. The goal is for you to feel a stretch, not pain so don’t push it too hard, improve over time. Do this for 2 to 4 sets of about 40 seconds.
Remember to always warm up a little before you stretch. So do them at the end of a workout or just do some calf raises with your bodyweight to warm up.
Try these three stretches and see which one you like best or use all of them. We have lined them up in that order as the intensity of the stretch increases with each variation. Start slow if you are new to stretching, it is better to do a little every day and try to progress slowly, than to do a lot once in a while.
So try these tips and trix and bring your calves back to glory!
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