This video demonstrates the gastrocnemius stretch, which is a very large calf muscle. The gastrocnemius has two heads, which both cross the knee joint. The muscle eventually blends into the Achilles’ tendon which forms a strong connection with the plantar fascia. The gastrocnemius may be treated for many different reasons and this stretch is often recommended.
What you should feel
You should be aiming for a mild-to-moderate stretch into the calf (back of your lower leg). You want to make sure you keep the stretch intensity so that you can “relax into it” rather than tensing up your muscles due to discomfort.
Pain is not expected with these exercises, but some discomfort associated with the stretch is expected. Stop this exercise if you are unsure about what you are feeling or if it is painful in an unexpected way.
Here are the instructions and there is a video below that explains it all:
- Stand beside a wall and step forward with one leg (you’ll be stretching the back leg).
- Keep your feet pointing straight forward to start (there are exceptions to this).
- Keep your back knee as straight as possible.
- Lunge forward on the front knee and keep the heel of the back leg flat on the ground.
- You are trying to dorsiflex or bend the back ankle so that the toes are going toward the front of the shin. In order to do this you’ll need to keep that heel on the ground!
- You should feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg / calf.
As shown in the video, you may be able to acquire a stronger stretch by turning the heel in or out. This will target a different part of the gastrocnemius muscle.
The Gastrocnemius & Soleus Stretch Modification video may also help you to perform this stretch.
mdkPHYSIO provides specific parameters to all patients. In general, stretches should be held for about 30 seconds and performed 4 times in a row. Daily frequency varies depending on the issue, timing and how you respond to the stretch. A intense but comfortable stretch should be felt. I usually tell people a “moderate” stretch that allows you to “relax” while stretching. You should not be tensing up due to discomfort as you stretch as this will be less productive.