Main menu

Sensational Calf Stretches

(Passively and Actively Stretching the Soleus and Gastrocnemius Muscles)

All

Calf Stretches

Standing calf stretch while bending forwards, fronts of feet elevated with yoga block.

To stretch your calves, bend your feet forwards at the ankle joint. In a calf stretch the muscles you can stretch include the soleus muscle, which attaches the back of the heel to the backs of the fibula and tibia and the gastrocnemius, a multi-joint muscle that attaches to the back of the ankle and crosses the back of the knee to attach to the lower end of the femur.

Bending the ankle forwards while the knee is bent will generally stretch the soleus while bending it forwards with the knee straight stretches both the soleus and the gastrocnemius.

Standing with one foot forwards you can stretch the calf of your back leg by keeping your back foot flat on the floor while moving your hips forwards. The further forwards you move your pelvis (and tilt your back leg forwards) the greater the calf stretch.

In the yoga pose downward dog, you can stretch your calves with a similiar action, dropping your heels to the floor.

Using downward dog as a calf stretch.

Turning Passive Calf Stretches Active

I get a lot of students who have difficulty with getting their heels to the floor and so my usual recommendation is to focus on lifting the fronts of the feet. This then turns downward facing dog into an active calf stretch. The muscles at the front of the shin and ankle are used to bend the ankle forwards stretching the muscles at the back of the shin.

Standing with your forefeet on a raised surface, say the edge of a stair, you can then stretch the calves by dropping the heels down. You can keep this as a passive stretch and focus on using your body weight to sink your heels or you can make it an active stretch. Activate the fronts of your ankles.

Standing calf stretch, fronts of feet elevated, sensational yoga poses.

This action can come in handy even if you don't have a raised surface on which to stand. Standing with one foot slightly ahead of the other you could stretch the calf of the back foot by lifting the front of the foot as high as possible. Or stand with both feet even, and perhaps with a hand on a wall or table for balance, lift the fronts of both feet to again do an active calf stretch.

Combining Hamstring and Calf Stretches

While doing a standing forward bend, which stretches the hamstrings, you could add a calf stretch by lifting the front of one foot or both feet.

The further you raise the fronts of your feet the greater the stretch to the calf. Starting with the hips back to make the stretch a little less intense, you could gradually move the hips forwards to increase the stretch.

Standing calf stretch while bending forwards, fronts of feet elevated with yoga block. Hips back to reduce stretch.
Standing calf stretch while bending forwards, fronts of feet elevated with yoga block. Hips forwards to reduce stretch.

If you haven't got a block to raise the fronts of your feet you can do an active calf stretch instead, using the muscles along the front of the shin to raise the fronts of the feet.

Standing calf stretch while bending forwards, fronts of feet lifted using muscle action. Hips back to reduce stretch.

In a seated forward bend you can stretch the calves by bending the feet backwards at the ankles. You can do this just using the muscles at the front of the ankles or you can assist the stretch by using one or both hands.

Seated forward bending calf stretch, feet actively bent backwards to stretch calves.
Hurdlers stretch to stretch the calf, foot bend back using hand to help for assisted calf stretch.

You could bend forwards first and then bend one or both feet backwards. Or bend the feet backwards first and then bend forwards to stretch the hamstrings.

Resisted Calf Stretches

You may find it helpful to experiment with resisted stretching when trying to stretch your calves. Standing on the edge of a stair and letting your heels sink down, you can activate your calf's just enough to resist the stretch without coming out of it.

Why Are Combined Hamstring and Calf Stretches Uncomfortable

Combined stretches where you stretch the calf and hamstring at the same time can be very uncomfortable. This is because the tendons of the hamstring muscle and gastrocnemius slightly wrap around each other at the back of the knee. These tendons are tightened when the knee is straight making it very uncomfortable to stretch the hamstrings and calves together.

Published: 2016 12 09
Updated: 2021 02 10

Neil Keleher

Hi, I'm Neil Keleher

I have a bachelor's degree in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

I've taught yoga for over 20 years with a focus on force perception and using it to improve body awareness, stability, strength and flexibility.

My main interest is in basic principles that can be applied in any endeavor to make learning and doing easier and to make problem solving easier.

You can find more by me on my other website zeroparallax

Clearly defined poses, exercises and stretches for improving stability, body awareness and flexibility.

Ebooks and video courses by Neil Keleher

Balance Basics ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

Yoga Basics 1 ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

Yoga Basics 2 ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

Yoga for shoulders ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

Hip control Guide ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

Working towards wheel pose ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

Dance of Shiva ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

know to flow ebook. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Ebook

ebook bundle including: the dance of shiva, balance basics, yoga for your shoulders, yoga basics 1, yoga basics 2, the hip control guide, working towards wheel pose, know to flow.

Ebook bundle: 8 books

take out the slack. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video Membership

5 Sensational yoga routines for beginners. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video routine and workshop

Frictional muscle control. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video routine and workshop

Extreme stability, Foot and Ankle Stability for Better Hip Control. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video routine and workshop

Mindful muscle control and proprioception. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video routine and workshop

Ribcage mobility video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Muscle control for your Spine video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Hip flexor control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Hamstring control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Thigh muscle control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Long thigh muscle control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Deep hip muscle control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

SI joints, hips and spine control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Shoulder control video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Arm strength for push ups video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Better hip joint control. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

Leg anatomy video course. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video workshop

take out the slack. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses.

Video Membership

Related:
Low Leg
(Foot And Lower Leg)

Peroneus Brevis

Peroneus Longus

Tibialis Anterior

Tibialis Posterior

More Foot And Lower Leg articles

Return to TOP of Page

Main menu