How To Stretch the Gastrocnemius & Soleus Muscles

The soleus and gastrocnemius are two of the muscles in your calves and are heavily involved in many of the exercises you perform each day. An adequate fitness program will incorporate stretching because it increases flexibility, improves circulation and range of motion, and reduces muscle stress. Calf stretches also are incorporated into a rehabilitation program after an injury. The exercises to stretch the soleus and gastrocnemius are quite similar, and because both muscles are in the calf, they often will be stretched in tandem with one another.

A woman is stretching outside. (Image: Central IT Alliance/iStock/Getty Images)

Soleus Stretch

Step 1

Stand facing a wall and place your hands flat on the wall at about chest height.

Step 2

Place one leg slightly behind the other, with both your knees bent slightly. If you are doing the stretch as part of your rehab from an injury, place your injured leg in the back for the stretches.

Step 3

Lean toward the wall gently until you begin to feel your calf stretch in the injured leg. Your heel should remain on the floor during the stretch and should not be elevated.

Step 4

Stop leaning at the point at which you begin to feel the stretch, then hold the position for 30 seconds.

Step 5

Return to a standing position, then repeat the stretch three more times.

Step 6

Repeat the soleus stretches with the other leg, performing the stretch a total of four times.

Gastrocnemius Stretch

Step 1

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, about 2 feet to 3 feet from a wall. When standing, your hands should be able to reach the wall in front of you.

Step 2

Extend your arms and hands and firmly plant your palms on the wall in front of you.

Step 3

Lean against the wall.

Step 4

Take one step forward with one foot, firmly planting your foot on the ground and bending your leg at the knee. During this, the heel of your back foot should be firmly planted and your toes should be pointed toward the wall.

Step 5

Hold the position for six seconds, then relax for five seconds. The exercise should be performed two times on each leg, alternating between legs.

Tip

Warm up before stretching. Cold muscles are more likely to be injured from stretching, so it's best to do five or 10 minutes of low-intensity exercise before you stretch.

Do not hold your breath when you stretch. Instead, breathe freely and deeply.

Warning

After an injury, speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine to prevent further exacerbation of your injury.

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