6 Best Calf and Achilles Stretches and Exercises
Calf and Achilles stretches to improve your Achilles flexibility and relieve tight calf muscles.
by Brad Walker | First Published July 11, 2019
Sports that Benefit from Calf and Achilles Stretches
Sports that benefit from the calf and Achilles stretches below include: Running, Walking, Race Walking, Track, Cross Country and all running sports like Soccer, Football, Gridiron and Rugby. Basketball, Netball, Ice Hockey, Field Hockey, Ice Skating, Roller Skating, Inline Skating, Martial Arts, Snow Skiing, Water Skiing, Surfing and any sport that involves jumping or explosive movement. Cycling; Hiking, Backpacking, Mountaineering and Orienteering also benefit from regular calf and Achilles stretching.
Calf and Achilles Muscles being Stretched
While performing the calf and Achilles stretches below there are a number of muscles within the lower leg that are stretched. Below is a comprehensive list of the anatomical muscle names involved in the following stretches.
- Gastrocnemius (Upper calf);
- Tibialis Posterior (Upper calf);
- Flexor Digitorum Longus and Flexor Hallucis Longus (Upper calf);
- Soleus (Lower calf and Achilles);
- Peroneus Longus and Peroneus Brevis (Lower calf and Achilles); and
- Semimembranosus, Semitendinosis and Biceps Femoris (Hamstring).
Calf and Achilles Stretching Safety Guidelines
As with all exercise activities there are rules and guidelines to ensure that they are safe. Stretching is no exception. Stretching can be extremely dangerous and harmful if done incorrectly. It is vitally important that the following guidelines be adhered to, both for safety and for maximizing the potential benefits of stretching.
- Breathe. Don’t hold your breath. Holding your breath causes muscle tension and can raise your blood pressure. The deeper you breathe, the more relaxed your muscles will be, and the deeper and longer you will be able to stretch.
- Never push a stretch beyond the point of mild discomfort. Stretching tight muscles can be uncomfortable, but you should never feel any sharp or sudden pain. If you do, stop immediately; you are pushing the stretch too far.
- Be consistent. Stretching for a few minutes a couple of times a day will gradually build flexibility and range of motion. This is a better way to stretch, rather than only once a week for a longer time.
- Wear loose comfortable clothing. It’s obviously very difficult to stretch if your clothes are tight and restrict movement.
Sample Calf and Achilles Stretches
Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Important: To stretch the calf and Achilles effectively it’s important to stretch with both a straight leg and a bent leg. Stretching with a straight leg will emphasize the upper calf, while stretching with a bent leg will emphasize the lower calf and Achilles.
Sample Calf and Achilles Stretching Videos
Below you’ll find a few good stretches for your calves and Achilles. But don’t rely on just a few stretches; it’s important to do a range of stretches for the buttocks, hamstrings and groin. Please be careful, if you haven’t stretched your calf and Achilles muscles, some of these stretches will put a lot of stress on the muscles and tendons. Warm-up first, then proceed in a gradual and gently way.
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Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, July 14). Achilles tendon, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Jones, O. (April 23, 2019). Muscles in the Posterior Compartment of the Leg. Retrieved June 15, 2019, from https://teachmeanatomy.info/lower-limb/muscles/leg/posterior-compartment/.
- Allison, G. Purdam, C. (2009). Eccentric loading for Achilles tendinopathy — strengthening or stretching?. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43:276-279.
- Porter, D. Barrill, E. Oneacre, K. May, B. (2002). The effects of duration and frequency of Achilles tendon stretching on dorsiflexion and outcome in painful heel syndrome: a randomized, blinded, control study. Foot & Ankle International, 23(7):619-24.
- Rosenbaum, D. Hennig, E. (2008). The influence of stretching and warm‐up exercises on Achilles tendon reflex activity. Journal of Sports Sciences, 13(6):481-490.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.