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calf stretches

8 Best Calf Stretches

After a long leg day, only the best calf stretches can get you on the road to recovery. So, we have a list of 8 of the very best to help you to get back in the gym sooner, rather than later. 

Your calves can easily become tired or stiff due to the sheer amount we use them, everyday they are put to work whether it be walking, running or even standing. That's why you should provide them with the tlc that they deserve and use some good calf stretches to reduce any risk of injury or DOMS.

Before we get into it, are you looking to get started in the fitness industry? If so, you might just be interested in becoming a personal trainer with the help of OriGym. You can get industry ready with our level 3 diploma in personal training, check it out here. Alternatively, sift through our plethora of fitness courses by downloading our free course prospectus now.

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#1 Seated Calf Stretch With Resistance Band

A quick reminder that your calf muscle is known as the gastrocnemius, so when you spot this word, it is simply a reference to the biggest calf muscle; however do note that you also have your soleus underneath your gastrocnemius too, so you will also see this name amidst this article too!

This calf muscle stretch is a great one to perform after a workout as you’ll be seated and not wasting any energy. All you will need is a resistance band to help you get the most from this movement.

Starting Position

Start by grabbing yourself a mat for comfort, however don’t worry if you don’t have one to hand, this calf muscle stretch can still be performed sitting on the floor. You should sit with one leg out in front of you and one bent at the knee with your back up straight. Your feet should be flexed with your resistance band to hand.

Execution

  • From the starting position, place the middle of the resistance band just below your toes on the outstretched leg. 
  • Holding each end of the band, return to the starting position so your back is up straight.
  • With your arms at a 90 degree angle, pull back the band until you feel a stretch.
  • Lean your body forward to release the stretch slowly.
  • Repeat this motion.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius and the soleus.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Pulling the resistance band too fast: This is one of the calf stretches that should be conducted in a slow manner. It isn’t often you will find a stretch that's performed quickly, it is about trying to stretch out the muscle rather than potentially damage it further. So, be sure to take your time on the movement and feel the stretch not a strain.

If you’re looking to grow the calf muscles to put your newly learned stretches to work, head over to our article on the best calf exercises for bigger calves here.

#2 Lunging Calf Stretch 

This is an easy standing calf stretch that you can get into with minimal effort, and is a great movement to throw in before you begin your set. If you are looking for a stretch without the dynamic aspect to it, this is a great option.

Starting Position

Begin with a mat if you have one to hand, though it isn't necessary - especially if you have shoes on. Ensure you have plenty of room and put one foot in front and lean into a lunge.

Execution: 

  • From the starting position, you should place your hands on your knee in front of you, however ensure you are not placing any pressure on the joint.
  • As you lean, allow your back heel to lift and stay steady on your toes, keeping your front foot flat on the floor.
  • Lean into the stretch until you feel it up your calf. 
  • Repeat the process for the recommended duration.

Duration: 30 seconds total, 15 seconds each leg.

Muscles targeted: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus and the glutes.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Keeping the back heel flat: It is important to follow the video if you need help during this one, as this stretches the calf muscle through the lunging movement. Putting your back heel down could alter the kind of stretch you are looking to perform.

Over stretching: If you over stretch and lean too far forward during this calf muscle stretch the sole of your foot could pay the price. If the foot is over stretched it's possible you may feel a strain and potentially risk injury. Aswell as this, you want to avoid pushing the knee further than the toes, best practice is the knee to be in line with the ankle.

#3 Standing Bent-over Calf Stretch

This is one of the most popular and effective calf stretches for runners, however whether you’re a runner or not, you can be sure to feel relief from this stretch. This stretch is useful with no shoes and a mat, it will be explained why to do so in the starting position.

Starting Position

Begin this stretch by bending over until you can reach your toes. Bend one leg slightly at the knee and reach your hands down to the other foot. 

Execution:

  • From the starting position, place your fingers underneath your toes on the straight leg.
  • Gently and slowly lift the toes until you feel a stretch in your calf.
  • Release and switch legs.

Duration: 8-10 seconds per leg.

Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, gastrocnemius and the soleus. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Bending the stretched leg: This leg should be supported by the opposing leg that has a slight bend in the knee. The goal for deep calf stretches is to focus the movement on the leg that is being stretched, therefore this should not be the leg responsible for finding balance. Your other leg that is bent and planted on the ground should be keeping you at optimal balance.

For some inspiration on what to add into your leg day, read our article on the best kettlebell leg exercises here.

#4 Wall Calf Stretch

If you’re looking for calf stretches that you don’t need any equipment for and can perform pretty much anywhere, here is your pick. The wall calf stretch is an easy way to stretch out before or after a workout with minimal space so let’s see how to get into the starting position. 

Starting Position

Begin by finding space and a wall, you should place your palms flat on the wall at around head height with a bend in the elbows. 

Execution:

  • Once you feel comfortable in the starting position, place your toe just above the skirtenboard of the wall and your heel on the floor.
  • Press the toe on the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf.
  • Try to keep still and remain in the stretch for the recommended duration before switching legs.

Duration: 30 seconds per leg.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius and the soleus. 

For some help on full body stretches, read our articles below:

#5 Eccentric Calf Raise

This is one of the stretches for the calf muscle that you can do at home or in the gym, it is convenient and effective. All you need is a bar or a chair at around hip height or below, this is purely for balance so anything that can withstand light pressure is viable.

Starting Position

Begin by placing the back of a chair in front of you, you can then use the back of the chair as a surface to hold onto in order to help your balance. You want to keep one arm on the chair and the opposing arm by your side. 

Execution:

  • From the starting position, use your right arm as the stabiliser on the chair.
  • Push straight up from the toes of your right foot.
  • As you do so, your left leg should bend at the knees slightly so that it is off of the ground.
  • Your right foot can then be lowered as slowly as possible so your heel comes back to the ground before repeating the movement.

Duration: 30 seconds each leg.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius and the soleus.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Returning to the ground right away: This is one of the calf stretches that requires tension. The lowering down of the legs should be slow and controlled for the effectiveness to be felt.

Pushing off of the chair: As previously mentioned, the chair’s purpose is to act as a balance assistant. So, refrain from pushing off of the chair or indeed putting any pressure on the chair other than what is necessary to help stability.

#6 Isometric Calf Raise

Similar to the previous calf muscle stretch, this stretch requires a balance accessory to help you focus your energy on the calf stretch, rather than your stability. It is a great exercise to warm up before a workout and prepare the muscles!

Starting Position

Aswell as being one of the best tight calf muscle stretches on the list, this is also one of the easiest. Begin standing up straight with a chair around hip height in front of you, you should place both hands on the back of the chair with your feet shoulder width apart.

Execution:

  • After gripping the back of your chair, slowly raise both of your heels off the ground.
  • You should be on the balls of your feet and this is where the lift should be coming from.
  • Avoid putting too much weight on your arms and keep the position for the duration of time.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius and the soleus.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Putting pressure on the arms: This is of course, a list of stretches for calf muscles so avoid pressing from the arms as this will put unnecessary strain on your upper body with no reward! 

For a great leg workout that will work up a sweat, read our article on the 27 best step exercises here!

#7 Straight-Leg Calf Stretch

Similarly to the wall calf stretch, this is one of the best calf stretches that you can perform with no equipment necessary. It is a super effective movement that is a popular warm up and cool down stretch among gym goers.

Starting Position: 

Begin this exercise by finding a wall and standing around half a metre away, you then should place one foot near the wall. The forward leg should be bent at the knee, almost in a lunge position.

Execution:

  • From this starting position, place both of your palms on the wall in front of you.
  • This should give you balance and now you are in the stretch position.
  • Ensure your back leg is straight and your heel is on the ground.
  • Push forward into the wall to intensify the stretch.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius and the soleus.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Lifting the back heel: Unlike other positions for calf stretches where we may have mentioned lifting the heel, this stretch is slightly different. The back heel being down is what accentuates the stretch and is what makes it so effective.

#8 Calf Roll With Foam Roller

Finally on our list of the best calf stretches is the calf roll. This requires a foam roller, a handy piece of equipment - you can find what we listed as the best foam rollers here for some help on purchasing! Apart from the foam roller, this calf stretch is perfect for a cool down after a busy leg day.

Starting Position: 

Begin by grabbing a mat and finding some space, you can then sit down with your left leg out straight with the foam roller sat underneath your calf. Your palms should be on the ground holding you up and facing away from the body. Your other leg should be crossed and underneath your left leg that will be rolling.

Execution:

  • Once you have mastered the starting position, keep your feet flexed and roll forward.
  • The foam roller should run from the top of your calf to the bottom of your leg.
  • Repeat this movement for the recommended time frame before switching legs.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Gastrocnemius and the soleus.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Allowing the foam roller to roll too far up the leg: The foam roller should not go further up than the back of the knee, this is one of the great stretches to loosen calf muscles. So, it would be useless the foam roller being in any place other than the calf! 

FAQs

How often should I stretch my calves?

Typically, this is subjective to your activity level, for example; the amount of calf stretches for runners is going to be different to those who do minimal physical activity. 

Similarly, many people who are stretching regularly may be attempting to recover from a case of plantar fasciitis, a common problem which can be eased with gentle stretching. 

If you’re an adult who has no issues or injuries, many recommend stretching 2-3 times a week. However those with injuries or in rehabilitation for any muscular problems  

Are there benefits of calf stretches

There are plenty of easy calf stretches to grant you great benefits in your everyday life. The calves are used more than you may think, everytime you walk, stand and exercise they are at work, so stretching can: 

  • See the reduction of aches and pains. 
  • Activate the gastrocnemius.
  • Increase range of motion for a limited time
  • Increase flexibility.

So whether you are an avid gym goer or not, stretches for calf muscles are beneficial to everybody!

Before You Go...

By now, you should feel confident with the help of our how-to videos, and step by step explanations, on how to perform effective stretches for the calf muscle. They are beneficial for all kinds of people whether active or not so why not add some into your morning routine?

Before you leave us, if you’re interested in keeping the body in top shape and want to expand your knowledge, why not check out our level 3 course in sports massage therapy? Or, you can find plenty of fitness courses here in our downloadable prospectus.

Written by Kimberley Mitchell

Editor

Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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