The large calf muscle, or gastrocnemius, has two parts or heads -- medial and lateral -- which extend from your knee joint to your heel bone. While the medial head is positioned on the inside of your lower leg, the lateral head runs along the outside. The two parts work together to extend your ankle downward. Any movement requiring a flexed foot will stretch your outside calf muscle, but positioning your toes outward will give the inner head more of a stretch. Conversely, you can target the outer head by placing your toes slightly inward on a stretch.
Lift the Toes
Stand erect with your weight on your left leg. Place your hand on a rail, wall or chair back to help you maintain balance.
Raise the toes of your right foot up and toward your shin. Keep your right heel pressed to the ground. Hold the peak position for a second or two, then release.
Perform 10 reps, trying to lift the toes of the working leg a little higher on each rep. Reverse leg positions and repeat the exercise on the other side.
Contract and Relax with a Strap
Sit on the floor, extending your right leg in front of you. Loop an elastic band or strap around the ball of your right foot.
Use your calf muscles to pull the ball of your foot toward your shin, pulling gently on the strap to increase the range of motion. Extend your ankle, pressing the ball of your foot into the band. Hold the contraction of your outer calf muscle for six seconds.
Release the contraction and take a deep breath. Exhale and repeat the exercise on your right leg, deepening the stretch after a contraction. Perform two to three reps. Reverse leg positions to do the exercise with your left leg.
Roll and Release
Sit on the floor with legs extended. Stack the heel of your left foot on the toes of your right foot, keeping the left leg lifted off the ground throughout the exercise. Position a foam roller under your right calf muscle. Place your hands on the ground, palms flat and fingers pointing forward.
Roll the length of your outer calf over the roller, using slow and controlled motion and supporting your bodyweight with your hands. Avoid the tender area on the back of the knee.
Repeat the roll for 10 to 15 seconds. Pause on particularly tight areas to release any knots. Reverse leg positions and repeat the stretch on the other leg.
- Therapeutic Exercise: From Theory to Practice; Michael Higgins
- Facilitated Stretching; Robert E. McAtee, Jeff Charland
- Soft Tissue Release; Jane Johnson
- Successful Sports Officiating; American Sport Education Program
- PhysioAdvisor.com: Calf Stretches
- Croydon Health Services: Gastrocnemius and Soleus Muscle Stretching Exercises