I know I consistently promote calf stretching to you all, like here, and here, and even here, but thanks to many of your questions, I realized I have never told you exactly how to do it right: my way.
True, it is a simple concept itself, but it’s not just “any old” calf stretching.
I am not talking about calf stretching before you run. I am not talking about calf stretching after you use the weights at the gym (or however you choose to exercise).
What I am talking about is calf stretching that is done right – everyday – and that is separate from exercise, especially before.
What you see described here is what is proven to be, over time, effective in changing the muscle-tendon units so that our muscles will eventually (patience, people!) return to their optimal (or “normal”) length. Yes, as you age many of your muscles get tighter, especially your calves. You know this because you just get stiffer, but it does not have to be that way.
So you say, “AO, of course I want results. So tell me how!”
…And that is what I have heard more and more lately. And, it is a fair request, which is why I’m sharing that now.
The Skinny on Stretching: The Stuff That Really Counts
Stretching the right way. It’s like something we tell our kids: “There’s no point in doing it if you aren’t going to do it right.” You can stretch off a step in order to get the kind of calf stretch you are really after – which is an isolated and passive stretch of the calf. The best kind!
So, wheat is the biggest, or the most common error I see in stretching?
Well, besides just not doing it or people ignoring me when I tell them to do it separate from any training or workout session, to start, take a look at where you are making contact with your foot. The foot should contact the step against the arch of your foot, not the ball. Believe it or not, the best stretch is obtained this way.
In the past, people have found success with an aerobics step, which works well since it is about 8 inches tall or so. It also has a rounded edge. Do a quick Google search if you need to see one.
If you perform the stretching on stairs, as many do, use the bottom stair and hold onto the railing for support. Athletic shoes with traction seem to work best.
Then slowly relax your ankles, and let your heels go downward. Learning this might take more effort and a little more time than you might think to get it just right. Remember the contact point on the step is your arch, not the balls of your feet. This point can not be over emphasized. Now you should be feeling a pulling (or a tightness) in your upper calf muscle – which is what we want. You should be feeling this stretch high in your calf, just below your knee.
Here’s what else to consider.
Length of time you do it…Every. Day.
Through years of tinkering and observation, I have determined that 9 minutes a day is the right number. It’s best to do it 3 minutes, 3 times per day. You can cluster your stretching like sets. In other words, do a 3 minute stretch, go away for a few minutes (brush your teeth, etc.), then do your next 3 minute stretch, go away for a bit, and then complete your final, 3 minutes, and you are done for the day. It’s easy, it’s done and you are on to the next thing. Less does not seem to work for people, and more is a waste.
How many weeks, or months should you stretch everyday. How long should you keep this up?
Are you going to stop after just a week or two? Again, by overall time span, what I mean is how many weeks or months are spent doing your stretching, each and every day. One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people either want an overnight change, or they “give up” when the pain goes away.
The one “downside” of calf stretching? It takes time. I’ll tell you again: you have to be consistent. Fortunately, but maybe not in your particular case, the problems we are solving are manageable, until the stretching finally does its job. Good things most often do not came fast. Be patient.
This will work, just be consistent and do it everyday. Moderate your stretching intensity to feel it high in your calf. Go easy for a week or so and break in slow.
Download this Guide to see the rest of this program, and share it with your friends and family…Unless you want them to be in pain? (Actually, for prevention purposes, this particular stretch would be good for everyone to do, with or without pain or foot problems.) You can call it the AO way, no kidding!
“So If We Do the Stretching The Right Way…When Do We Start to Get Relief?”
I see people take 2 weeks, to as much as 6 months for their calf stretching to “undo” the powerful, damaging effects that the isolated gastrocnemius contracture has exerted on their foot and ankle. Give it time and the results are most often stunning!
Where will you fall on the spectrum of 2 weeks to 6 months – that is, the time frame needed to resolve your tight calves? That’s one of many things I don’t know for sure! But, one thing I do know, if you don’t stretch you will never know now will you?
WARNING: As you start stretching you may experience pain in a different location or a slight increase in your pain. For instance, if you had plantar fasciitis in the past that is now resolved and you are calf stretching for second MTP synovitis you may experience a return of your plantar fasciitis. Instead of scaring you off, this experience should excite you. It means you are working on the root cause, and something positive is happening. And it should also convince you all this is connected and you are on your way to resolution the right way.
Stay healthy my friends,