Your calf muscles are one of the most over-utilized, but under treated areas of your body. They function to extend the ankle joint, which is used for activities such as walking, running, jumping and even stability during standing balance.
Through these activities (and even during prolonged bouts of sitting) your calf muscles become short and tighten up, leading to soreness which can affect performance of these everyday movements.
There are 3 good ways to prevent your calves from tightening up and becoming sore:
1. Dynamic Mobility
This is best performed prior to an activity (i.e. going for a run or hitting the gym), and is focused on generating blood flow to the desired area to gradually warm-up and lengthen the muscle. Some calf specific mobility exercises include ankle circles (elevating your leg and moving the foot in clock-wise & counter clock-wise patterns) and a walking march (fully extending the ankle at the top).
2. Static Stretching
This is best performed after your activity of choice. The focus here is to lengthen the muscle as much as possible after is has been worked. This can be performed by holding simple calf stretches (i.e. toe up against the wall) for approximately 30 seconds at a time.
3. Foam Rolling
This method can be performed before and/or after exercise. Foam rolling has become a common form of self-myofascial release that is used prior to exercise to improve flexibility and after exercise to reduce muscle soreness and promote quicker recovery. To release the calves specifically, you would start at the base of the calf (i.e. the Achille’s area) and roll towards the backside of the knee. When you feel like you hit a “knot” or tight spot on the muscle, roll across the muscle belly for 20-30 seconds then continue rolling up towards the knee. Repeat this process from the base of the calf a couple times, or until you feel the “knot” release.