The muscles located in your calves take a beating on a daily basis -- you use them for walking, climbing stairs and running. Many calf stretches target the gastrocnemius, the large muscles directly under the knee on the back of the leg. Fewer, though, focus on the soleus muscles, which are the smaller muscles that run along the outside of the gastrocnemius and connect to the foot. If you've ever wondered how often you should stretch the soleus muscles, the short answer is every day.
Before you can understand how often to stretch your soleus muscles, you must understand their function. The soleus acts with the gastrocnemius to control forward movement. The soleus muscles also play a role in maintaining the function of the knees and ankles. When these muscles suffer a strain or other injury, walking becomes difficult, so proper stretching is critical.
General Calf Tightness
Because you use your calf muscles, including the soleus, so often, make stretching this area an almost daily priority. This is especially important for women who wear high-heel shoes. If you wear this type of footwear often, your soleus muscles are in a near-constant state of contraction. Stretching the soleus muscles six or seven times each week keeps these muscles from becoming permanently shortened if you often wear heels. The frequent stretching will also help to maintain strong, flexible soleus muscles in general.
Soleus Stretching for Better Sleep
Painful leg cramps can interrupt your sleep, but there is a potential solution: stretching your calf muscles, including your soleus, before bedtime. A study published in the 2012 issue of the "Journal of Physiotherapy" indicates that stretching these muscles every night before bed can decrease the number and severity of nighttime leg cramps. The research cohort consisted of 80 adults over the age of 55, so this is not necessarily true for all age groups.
Soleus Stretching for Runners
Runners have special stretching needs, and this includes soleus stretching. Without proper stretching, runners face a greater risk of injury. Daily stretching may not be necessary unless you run every day, or you might need to stretch several times each day if you run more than once each day. Whatever your running schedule, stretch your soleus muscles well before each run. Depending on the length of your run and the tightness of your soleus, you may need to stretch after your run as well.
- SoCo Wellness: A Little Stretch That Goes a Long Way!
- National Council on Strength and Fitness: Why Train Your Calf Muscles
- Yoga Journal: Loosen Up Your Calves
- The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief; Clair Davies, David G. Simons, Amber Davies
- Journal of Physiotherapy: Stretching Before Sleep Reduces the Frequency and Severity of Nocturnal Leg Cramps in Older Adults
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images