Got cranky calves? You’re not alone. Your hips, hammies, and booty probably dominate your stretching routine, but your lower legs need lovin’, too. If you ignore calf and Achilles stiffness, you better believe that tension will impact the rest of the musculature on the back of your legs, and increase your risk of injury.
Since we’re a mobile yoga studio — not a mobile step aerobics studio — we don’t often teach this one in class, but it’s a one-stop shop for increasing circulation, tone, and pliability. Thanks Bre and Morgan for showing how it's done!
Try it: Calf Pump
When it comes to lower-leg relief, static (still, passive) stretching isn’t necessarily the answer. Here’s the situation — as explained by genius Richelle Ricard of Unity Therapeudic, our go-to gal for anatomy coaching, for breaking it down:
"The calf is dense with connective tissue, and unlike other muscular arrangements, creates nearly closed systems that are profoundly sensitive to the build up a fluid. When we don't actively pump fluid out of these compartments, pressure builds and irritates nerves and blood vessels, and contributes to the degeneration and stiffening of the connective tissue itself. In a nutshell, the action you are performing (below) pumps excess interstitial fluid out of the compartments AND keeps the connective tissue layers more flexible and supple."
Wha?! Now that sounds (and feels!) like a win to us. Don't worry, we know you probably just finished a LR and don't feel like jumping around. This active (eccentric) muscle lengthening is totally doable anytime. Just find a step and pump those babies — you’ll see what we mean…
- Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off.
- Lift both heels together.
- Keeping your leg straight without locking your knee, lower your right heel (you’ll need to bend the left knee).
- Switch and repeat 10 times.
- THEN do the same thing, keeping the knee of the lowering heel bent a bit more.
- Repeat 10 times.
- Do a few more sets if you’re as psyched about it as we are.