Tight calves or “limited dorsiflexion” is a universal plight of lifters and runners alike.
- Gastrocnemius Modified PNF:
PNF or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is a common practice for achieving a more effective stretch, which involves a periodic contraction of the muscle your attempting to stretch before initiating a passive lengthening of the muscle.This principle can be difficult to apply to yourself and usually requires an assistant to provide you tension for the isometric contraction as well as provide a force to bring you into a passive stretch.The modification comes into play where instead of isometrically contracting your gastroc, you contract your quads of the involved leg. This Quad contraction will bring the knee into full extension and oppose the gastrocs as they cross the joint to act as a secondary knee flexor.
Relax the quad contraction and further yourself into a deeper stretch
- Elevated Soleus Stretch:
Everyone knows the angle of the knee helps dictate which of your two primary plantar flexors you load. Standing/ donkey calf raise in theory loads the gastrocnemius where as a seated calf raise targets the soleus. But this knowledge is rarely applied to stretching.So just as knee position can help focus the load onto one of the two primary plantar flexors in training, the same principle can be applied to stretching. We mentioned above stretching the gastrocs in a knee extended position because the gastrocs cross the joint at the knee, the soleus, which doesn’t cross the knee, is best targeted in a knee-flexed position.
In order to do so, place the forefoot of the intended leg on a high box or bench, leaving room for your hind foot to fall below the plane of the bench, keeping this heal position slowly bring your knee forward while exaggerating the heal motion towards the floor.