Having trouble with tight calves? Learn how to loosen calf muscles, what causes tightness, and how one can prevent getting them in the first place.
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In this article:
- What Do Tight Calves Mean?
- Why Do Calves Tighten?
- Who Can Get Tight Calves?
- Where to Go for Relief from Tight Calves?
- How to Loosen Tight Calves?
Common Questions About Getting Rid of Tight Calves
What Do Tight Calves Mean?
The calves are the muscles on the back of the leg above the heel and below the knee. Normally, they should feel loose and flexible enough for one to stand on their toes, but when they feel tight and tense, there can be an underlying issue.
Tight calf muscles may indicate sprains, inflammations, and other complications that affect the ankle and foot. Patients suffering from a foot drop may also feel calf muscle pain from time to time.
Of course, stiff calves can also be the result of something simple like sitting too long or wearing high-heeled shoes too much. That’s why it’s important for everyone to do at least a few quick exercises daily to keep the calves loose and flexible no matter what.
Why Do Calves Tighten?
Most of the time, tight calves are either caused by overuse or underuse.
For example, marathoners who don’t properly stretch might feel some calf pain. Similarly, someone who sits down all day at work might also get tight calves.
Some other less common causes of tight calves include:
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Tendonitis injuries
- Poor blood circulation
What is peripheral vascular disease? It is a disorder in blood circulation where the blood vessels located outside the heart and brain become too narrow, are blocked, or suffer from spasm.
What is thrombosis? It happens when there is a blood clot in the vein.
Who Can Get Tight Calves?
Getting tight calves isn’t uncommon and anyone can suffer from tight calves. What’s important is to find out what the symptoms are so one can immediately seek professional help.
Some common symptoms of tight calves are:
- Inflammation in the calves
- Difficulty standing on one’s toes
- Calf pain when walking, running, or jumping
- Sudden striking pain in the back of the knees, hamstrings, or calves.
Where to Go for Relief from Tight Calves?
If the calves start to tighten, it’s best to do some lower posterior chain stretches for instant relief. If it goes away, then it’s probably just caused by something simple.
Posterior Chain Definition: The posterior chain consists of muscle groups at the back of the body. This includes the glutes, calves, hamstrings, traps, and posterior deltoids.
But if the pain persists, it might be time to see a medical professional. It can be caused by something more serious or the side effect of your medication — if any.
How to Loosen Tight Calves?
Here are some quick, easy stretches to get rid of tight calves:
1. Runner’s Stretch
— RI Rehabilitation (@RI_Rehab) December 5, 2017
As the name suggests, the runner’s stretch is a great move to include in one’s pre-run stretching routine. Not only does it loosen tight calves, but it also conditions them to be more flexible and handle the impact of running better.
- Stand about 12 inches away from a wall with arms at the sides and feet hip-width apart.
- Step one foot back and then place both hands on the wall in front. Make sure both the front and rear foot are planted flat on the ground.
- Next, lean the body toward the wall without lifting the heels off the ground. Continue leaning forward until one feels a stretch in the calf muscle of his or her rear foot.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds before repeating with the other leg.
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2. Seated Calf Stretch
The seated calf stretch is a great, easy-to-do exercise that can instantly loosen tight calves. Plus, one can easily do it anywhere.
- Sit down on the floor with the back against the wall and legs together straight in front.
- Lean the body forward and then grab the balls of the feet.
- Next, pull the toes toward the body until one feels his or her calves stretching.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
3. Seated Towel Calf Stretch
Seated Towel Calf Stretch GIF by Giphy
If the seated calf stretch isn’t enough, one can try the seated towel calf stretch. It allows one to isolate each leg and pull much harder on the foot by using a towel rather than the hands alone.
This is the perfect stretching exercise to perform when the calf muscles suddenly tighten while you’re in a hotel room on vacation.
- Sit down on the floor with the back against the wall and legs straight in front.
- Grab both ends of the towel and then loop it around the sole of one foot.
- Next, pull the towel to draw the toes in toward the body. One should feel a stretch in the calf.
- Hold for 30 seconds before repeating with the other leg.
4. One-Legged Calf Raise
One-Legged Calf Raise GIF by Giphy
The one-legged calf raise not only relaxes tight calves, but it also helps add muscle mass. In fact, bodybuilders can incorporate this into their workout by carrying a pair of dumbbells while performing this exercise.
- Find a small step that’s about five inches high.
- Place the right foot on the step and bend the other leg backward. After balancing the body on one leg, position the right foot so the ball is on the step and the heel is hanging off of it. Grab onto a wall for balance.
- Next, push the body up by driving the ball of the foot through the step. Remember to keep the right leg straight throughout this movement.
- Stay on the toes for about 30 seconds before releasing.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Tip: Fitness buffs who find it hard to grow their calves can explore performance-enhancing supplements. Incorporate them into one’s fitness plan to see how it will affect his or her performance and physique.
5. Standing Bent-Over Calf Stretch
The standing bent-over calf stretch is an exercise that targets the entire posterior chain. This makes it a good stretching exercise for the hamstrings, inner thighs, and of course, calves.
- Stand upright with arms at the sides and feet hip-width apart from each other.
- Place the right foot a few inches in front of the left foot.
- Next, bend down to reach the right foot with the right arm. Slightly bend the back knee for flexibility but keep the right leg straight throughout this movement.
- Gently pull the right toes with the right hand and then hold for 30 seconds.
- Release and then switch legs.
Learn how to stretch your calves in this video from Howcast:
Tight calves are not out of the ordinary and can happen to anyone. So if one feels some calf pain, don’t panic! Instead, do some quick stretching exercises to try and see if the pain will go away.
To avoid getting tight calves in the first place, make sure to perform regular stretching exercises and see how big of a difference daily stretching can have on the body.
Have you ever had tight calves before? What do you do to loosen them up? Share your experience in the comments section below!