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Stretching Your Calves

Hi everyone! So I have a very close friend who absolutely hates stretching. He's an avid runner and takes care of his diet much better than the average person. But, believe it or not, it's a very common theme that among even the most active of us, people don't like to stretch. It's uncomfortable, it hurts and it can be downright boring!

That's where I come in! I love stretching SO much that when my friend called me about an issue he was having related to muscle stiffness in his lower-leg, I decided to make a video for him. The video is of course for him, but also for all of you who are reading this who have issues from the knee-down or just want to get a bit more flexible in your lower-body.

In this video we'll cover warming up the calf, shin and foot with foam-rollers and balls, then stretching them out using specific body movements. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below or get in touch with us directly! I hope you enjoy and have a good stretch!

I also included a transcript of the entire video below, for those of you that would are looking for detailed information or specific terminology in what we're covering.

"Hi everyone I’m Gavin Ravens. Stretch Therapist from Miami Stretch Therapy here in Miami, FL and I’m here to talk to you today about foam rolling. Specifically, today we’re going to cover foam rolling the calves and the tibialis anterior on the front of the shin. And, we’re going to do that because I’m met a lot of people who have issues with circulation in the lower body. And actually a lot of diseases can develop if you do not have proper circulation in the lower limb. This video will be good for people who have diabetes, people who are very tight down here, athletes, anybody who has any issues with their toes, their ankles, their shins. This can even help your knees. Hi Kizzy! This is our newest edition to our Miami Stretch Therapy family, Kizzy. And our other assistant over here is Lil’ Miss! So they’ll be hanging out while we do this video together, if you don’t mind. So let’s go ahead and get started. In this video, you’ll need four items. Well, actually five. You’ll need two balls of two different strengths. We’ll need a soft ball, I prefer a pinky ball. This is about a 2.5 inch ball. You can find it, I picked it up at my local supermarket. You can pick it up on Amazon if you like. I’ll provide a link below for you to take a look. And this is just your average, standard lacrosse ball. Ok, then we have here two different thickness, not even thickness, two different hardness foam rollers. So we have a harder one here and a softer one here. And why we have those and why we also have two different types of balls in that you want to warm it up, warm your muscle up, before you go in really deep. Ok, so we’re going to start with the softer one here first off. And we’re going to start by warming up our muscles softly and gently with this one and then move on to the harder one. And then we can even move on to trigger pointing it with the pinky ball. And if that’s not enough, if you want to go even deeper from there. You can use the lacrosse ball. In the beginning you may only need a soft foam roller, it depends on how tight you are and your level of pain. And how much you can take. Over time you can do more and more, you can go deeper and deeper. So, we’re going to start with the soft one here. We’re going to work on the calf and then we’re gonna work our way around later on to the tibialis anterior. I have a mat here, you don’t need one, but I recommend one, it’s nice for your butt and tailbone. So, position the foam roller right in the middle of your calf there and then bring your other leg across it on top. And your want to lock out your lower leg that we’re going to be working on here. And lift off, lift your butt off. That’s gonna put a lot of pressure on that calf. If its too much, keep seated, and what you can do is lean forward into it like that. So let’s lift up, those of you who can, and we’re gonna just easily, gently, roll ourselves forward. Ok, and roll ourselves back. we’re going to start with a small motion. Just maybe 3 or 4 inches up and down the middle of the calf to warm it up. If your leg gets a little bit numb, if you feel that the circulation is being blocked or the nerves are getting pinched at all, just take a break. Just take it off, flex your foot around a little bit. And we’ll go right back into it. So once we’ve warmed it up a little bit - and you can take your time with this. We’re just gonna kind of blow through this and cover the basic steps. But you can take your time and do this as long as you want. If it feels good, just do it. And you can see what I’m starting to do now. I’m bending my knees, pulling it up and then pushing all the way out. So we get a longer range here. If this hurts your wrists, you can move your arms back, and you can position yourself, put your foot over there, right over the front of your shin. Sometimes I prefer this position a little better. And you can get longer strides. Longer rolls on the calf. Good. You see how I’m also rotating my hip and I’m getting all positions on my calf. I’m getting the medial fibers, the lateral fibers, I’m getting the central fibers. And as you do that, you want to make sure that you get all the way up behind the knee. Ok good. Switch to the other side. Right up and down the middle there. The cats are over here, watching, directing. Good girls. Ok, good, we’re just gonna touch a little bit on each part. Good. My left is much tighter and my right, I feel, so, I’m just gonna kind of touch on each of the fibers real quick on this side. But sometimes when I do it by myself, I’ll do it for minutes at a time. Because I do this more often, I use the less-dense foam-roller, less often. So, let’s put that off to the side and we’re gonna upgrade to the hard foam-roller. Ok, now this one automatically right off the bat you’re gonna feel more pressure in there. It’s gonna get deeper. And for those of you who do this all the time. Make sure to change out your foam roller every so often. They do get kind of bent out of shape. They get used and you need to replenish and get a new one so you get the same pressure as when you first got it. Good. You can see the move that I’m doing here. I’m also getting a little upper-body work-out. And you can do anything you want with your upper-body that makes sense for you. This is just a position that I prefer and I like to do it while working on myself. Make sure you cover all the areas there. Ah that’s real nice! Get the upper fibers. That’s real nice. Ok. So that’s the basic movement to warm them up. In the beginning you can do just foam-rolling. That’s gonna cover a lot. You’re gonna feel good just from that. But for someone like me who does it all the time and they need a little more in-depth treatment. Then we come here with the pinky ball. First position, right in the center there. And just like that. Lift off in a 3-point position with your foot and your hands and as you can see, I’m dorsiflexing actually. Giving a little bit of resistance while we do that. But, in the beginning, its a good idea to relax it. Roll it up and down. This may be excruciating when you first do it, but over time it will open up and feel really good. Like for me right now, this is like heaven. This is really good. When we move on to the Lacrosse ball, it’s gonna be a little bit of a different story. Ok, fact is, if you want to get a little bit more pressure with this ball before you move on to the next step, you can put a little weight on there with your opposite foot. Just work on balance. You can not just roll it, but you can actually find a point and push on there. And get a nice, kind of trigger, pressure trigger, rather than roll right over it. Good, that’s especially important for people who have ankle problems. To work the area, you can see under the main gastrocnemius muscle, in the lower fibers here. More of the soleus. See here, down in here and the lower Achilles. Where all that attaches up in here. Lot of pressure in there. It gets locked up on a lot of people. Let’s move over to the other leg. And roll it out. All the way up. And on the other side of the coin. People who have knee-issues; knee problems, a lot of times it does come from the quadriceps and upper-leg, but sometimes it does come from the uppermost fibers of the calf that insert up into the back of the knee. So, what you want to do is- I’m gonna turn a little bit so you can see here- you want to get right up behind the knee with it. All the way up into the upper calf and behind the knee. There’s a small muscle back there called the popliteus, which is really important to keep unlocked. Especially in athletes, it can get very inflamed. Good. A little more pressure, put the other foot on top. You can even lean forward, push with your hands a little bit if you like. Make sure to get all the lateral fibers as well. That’s very nice. The more you do this, the more you’ll get to know your body and where you need more treatment. You’ll get a feel of the fibers that- some of you may be more tight on the lateral side, some of you on the medial side. You’ll get used to it, you’ll get to know your body a little better as you do this more often. So, now it’s the big daddy. Moving on to the lacrosse ball. Be very gentle with easing into this. And don’t skip all those steps. Take your time, warm it up with a foam-roller in order, roll with the ball and then eventually this gonna be the last level of treatment here. So you’ll grab the position right there, get it a little more in the middle. That’s as good a place to start as any. And then, yeah, you can get up in that three-point position and just roll that. And that’s intense. Good, all the way up and down. Same pattern as before, start with the middle of the calf and then move up to the lower and upper fibers for the rest of everything there. So, effectively, you’re more of less stretching out the muscle fibers. And then after all this, we’re gonna do a little bit of stretch to open it up even more and solidify our gains. Because this is a lot of soft-tissue work, but what we want, ideally, is to have to do less of this. Because it’s pretty painful. So it won’t keep the fibers open, and how we do that is open up the myofascial tissue that wraps around the muscle. So if your muscle is like a big piece of meat. Imagine its wrapped in saran wrap. We got our calf here, right? Imagine there's a wrap around it and the wrap turns into a tendon- not a tendon, rather- a ligament. A ligament connect bone to muscle and vice versa. So it’s gonna wrap around and then attach up into the bone and it’s gonna come down here and attach into the bone. So the muscle, you want to relax, beat it up a little bit. Loosen it up. And then the fascia, you want to lengthen, because it’s so much tougher, so much denser fiber than in the muscle. It’s harder to stretch, so in doing this it makes it easier to stretch the myofasia as well as the muscle. Switch to the other side. Roll it out. That’s really nice. I’m loving it. Good, if you want, lean into it. Get a little deeper. Roll it out. You want to stay away from doing this. You don’t really want to do it long ways across because it’s really painful in the beginning. As you get more advanced, feel free to do whatever feels good. But in the beginning try to go up and down. Feel it out, feel where those tighter muscles are. And just go for it right there, it’s really nice. Perfect! So like I said, this is just a demo. I’m not gonna be doing like I would be giving like I would be giving myself a treatment. I might spend much longer time on it. But for now, that’s it for the calves. That alone will definitely help you a tremendous amount. Switching over to the tibialis anterior- so in the calf your have a bunch of muscles, you got like 4 or 5 muscles that come up and then a lot of minor muscles that wrap around the sides that support your feet, flex and extend them. In the front you have just one main muscle called your tibialis anterior. Now, this is gonna be a little easier than the other one. Maybe not in terms of pain, but it’s gonna be easier because it’s just gonna be one muscle. You’re gonna take the pinky ball, start here, and find the find the very top of your muscle. Which is going to be right around there. You find your knee, your gonna have your knee bone- the bone right underneath your knee, right there. And then you’re gonna place it right there. In that little knee-groove. Right between the tibia and the fibula. And we’ll go this way for it so you guys can see what I’m doing. Ok, now, kind of like, position myself like a dog about to take a pee. Three-point position on my knee and hands. And then I’m gonna roll up and down here. Just like that. And then trigger-point. Hit it one point at a time. I find this one a little easier to do just on the floor. Not on the mat. Because my foot can slide along the floor. You may find it easier as well. Take your time with this. Your muscle may actually be so incredibly tight that you don’t actually feel anything going on, but just take your time. Roll it out, take a few minutes on this. Go up and down the muscle. All the way down. And, just like the calf. Some of the tightest fibers are down here. Now don’t go past the ankle, but just right here in the last inches. A lot, a lot of tightness, because this muscle, it goes from being very thick up here, to being more thin down here as it inserts into the ankle and the foot. You can actually break it up like this, roll it out over the front like that, if you like. I find that body-weight works the best, because you can just relax into it. This is more strenuous on the upper-body, but it’s another tool in your toolbox. Ok, let’s hit the other side. So that trigger point that just- you know finding where that tight muscle is, and just leaning in on it with the ball- that’s a really good strategy for people who we were just talking about who have very tight muscles and may not feel anything. It’ll help break it up, piece by piece. Good! So you may be able to see that my pinky ball is actually getting a little worn-out. It’s time for me to get a new one. I’ve used it so much I’ve actually worn-out it’s use. It’s really good. But it’s still useful. Good. Good. Now, moving on to the lacrosse ball. Now be careful, this’ll really hurt if you don’t warm it up. So let’s get it back in there. This one’s a little easier actually because as you push in, the ball doesn’t go anywhere because it’s so hard. Ok, so get in there really gently and easily. Right up and down the whole tibialis anterior- the whole front of the shin muscle. Now, unlike the last one, this might be easier for you because you’ll need less pressure to put it right here between your palms there and just roll it down. Just like that. That’ll soften it up, then you can move back into the body-weight position of leaning in on it. Make sure, just like I’m doing, go all the way down the shin. Stretch all those fibers out all the way down to the ankle. Good, loosen them up. That feels really great. Good. Let’s switch to the other side. And, we’re gonna get in there nice, trigger point in as we lean in on it. This is just a really fantastic exercise to do- hi sweetie!- For people who have problems with getting deep in a squat. Sometimes actually you get jammed up. When you’re trying to get into a really deep squat, you can’t do this because your muscle is tight and weak and it prevents you. Even if you lengthen your calf all the way, you might not be able to get that dorsiflexion to get that deep in the squat. And that in fact was the case with me until I opened it up. Now I can get super, super deep. Good, remember, right between the palms. Rolling it down. Nice, nice, nice. Ah, that’s just fantastic, I really like this one. They sell a bunch of tools online, or any kind of sports shop, that you can use to roll this out. As long as you’re opening up the muscle, that’s really what counts. It doesn’t have to be limited limited to just the items we’re using in this video. You might have other kind of balls around the house that you can use. This is just what I’m using, feel free to improve. Just be careful about using a tennis ball, because a tennis ball tends to actually fold in on itself if they’re all or if you use them too much. I feel really loose, especially in the front. That’s where I was a little more tight. So, let’s follow up those, that little bit of bodywork we just did, with stretching out the facia, yeah? So let’s bring both our feet out in front of us. Anybody who's done high school or middle school physical education will be familiar with this one. Ok, bring both feet out in front of you. We’re gonna add in a little twist. You’re gonna pull your toes in toward you as you reach out toward them. Ok, so deep breathe, exhale. If you can grab your toes, great. You want to pull them up toward you more. Ok, and again. Good. Just go as far as you can. Don’t hold the stretch for too long. But if you can go farther, just keep easing into it. The whole idea here is not to see how far you can get your hands there, but how far you can get dorsiflexion. How much you can pull your calves up- I’m sorry- your toes and your foot up toward you as you come down. In the beginning, if that’s a little bit difficult, or if you just like to get a little isolation on one foot. Tuck in your other leg. Reach out and grab your foot there, dorsiflex, and reach out with the other one. You can grab your forearm, you can grab your arm anywhere you want. Or you can just reach out and grab both and them pull them up. Good. Let’s hit the other side. And again, this is just a demonstration, but feel free to break it up. Do 5, 7 repetitions. Try to get as deep as you can. As if you feel like you still want to do more, do 2 to 3 sets. There’s not really a limit on this stuff. Just, don’t injury yourself. Go slow, be careful, be gentle. Good. And then, yeah, let’s move on to- it’s so simple- there’s so many stretches you can do for the calf, that’s just one I like to do. There’s plenty out there. We’ll make some more videos in the future. I’m sure we’ll cover different calf stretches, but for now, just that one’s good. And for the front here, there’s a few you can do. This one I like. It doesn’t really do much for me anymore because I’m really flexible there. Also, keep in mind, once you reach a certain level of flexibility here, you don’t really need to go any further, but the muscle can still be tight. So, do all the warm-up work it, but then just check your range of motion. See if you can do this. If you can get your foot flat, like that, that’s all you need to do. You can’t go any further. That’s pretty much all you need to do. We can also check it by doing this. Pulling your toes up. Also, you can roll out, use your palm, push on your pinky toe, and pull it up. Get it to roll that way, and then the opposite. Roll it out to the other side. That’s gonna make sure you get all the tibialis anterior fibers. And the other side. How we doing there? Pretty good, I’m not feeling much difference. I think they’re both pretty loose. Good. Ok. For a bonus, let’s hit the feet a little bit. So, the feet, they’re pretty meaty. There’s a lot of different points on here that are good for triggering. But, let’s focus just mainly on the main arch and the point in-between the ball of your foot and the heel of your foot. And the outside knuckle of your pinky and here. So just follow this region right here we’re gonna touch. So, just in this position you can sit on- we have a couch- you can sit on the couch. You can sit in a chair and just roll out the bottom of your foot. Just like that. Kind of up and down, going up and down toward, imagine, each one of your toes. And then, spend more time on your big toe, especially in the last half. I’m just doing a quick little warm-up because my ball is getting a little worn-out here and well, I’m used to this one, so let’s put that one aside. And go back to the lacrosse ball. And here, immediately, wow, I really feel that. That’s, that’s a lot. But, be gentle. Just like everything else. Take your time. Go a little faster if you like. Good. Be careful not to go too hard, because unlike other muscles, you have to walk on these all day, every day, I’m sure. So, just be careful. Unlike the calf, here, I would actually recommend a little sideways, kind of like on like an arch. Go through the muscles after you’ve gone forward and back. Good, now switch to the other side. Good. Move a little faster, a little slower, whatever you feel. And if that’s too easy for you, feel free to go back to that 3-point position. Get a little more weight on there. Make sure you have control. That’s really good. Nice. This can actually help you with your arch. It can help restore your arch. All this kind of work. Sometimes tight arches or collapsed arches are due to muscular tightness and loosening all that up will improve your arch. So, that’s it for today. Thanks for watching. I hope it helps and good luck! See you soon. Take care, bye."


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