How to loosen a tight calf muscle

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How to loosen a tight calf muscle
A combination of self-massage and stretches can alleviate tight calves. (stretching ii image by Mitchell Knapton from

Tight calves are often caused by excessive plantar flexion of the ankle joint. When the heel is constantly lifted up, the muscle fibres and connective tissues in the calves are shortened, causing a constant flow of neural stimulation to the area. A combination of stretching, ankle- and hip-mobility exercises, self-massage and dry sauna treatment can alleviate tight calf muscles, suggests physical therapist Gray Cook, author of the "Athletic Body in Balance."

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Things you need

  • Foam roller
  • Half-foam roller, 1 foot long
  • Aerobic step, 1 foot high

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  1. 1

    Sit on the ground, and place the bottom of your left calf on top of a foam roller. Flex your left foot, and place your right calf on top of your left shin to place some pressure on it. Put your hands on the ground by your sides for support.

  2. 2

    Roll your calf from your Achilles tendon toward the back of the knee. Hold and gently rub any tenderness or painful part of the muscle until the pain goes away.

  3. 3

    Switch legs, and repeat the same self-massage method on your right calf. Do not rush through this exercise.

  1. 1

    Place a half-foam roller parallel to a wall about 2 feet away. Put your right foot on top of it with your heel on the ground. Put your left foot in the gap between the roller and the wall and your hands on the wall. Turn your right foot slightly inward.

  2. 2

    Shift your weight toward your left to increase the right calf stretch. Keep your torso upright, and tighten your right buttock slightly. Hold the stretch for three deep breaths.

  3. 3

    Place your left foot across your body toward the right edge of the foam roll. Hold the stretch for three deep breaths. Do not move your right foot's position.

  4. 4

    Put your left foot toward the left edge of the foam roll, and hold the stretch for three deep breaths. Perform three to four sets of stretches per calf.

  1. 1

    Stand on top of an aerobic step with your feet together. Do not add risers to the step.

  2. 2

    Step your left foot down, and keep your right foot and heel flat on the step. Keep your torso upright. Hold the stretch for two seconds. Step back to the top.

  3. 3

    Perform 10 reps for three sets per side.

Tips and warnings

  • The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends that you perform self-myofascial release before stretching. This helps loosen up trigger points and improves the muscle and connective tissue's elasticity and blood flow. Perform an extra set of stretches on the tighter side of your calf.

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