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Posts Tagged ‘stretching soleus’

Deep and superficial layers of posterior leg m...
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Most people think of their calf muscles as those two bulging muscles below the back of their knees called the gastrocnemius muscle. These muscles have two “heads” like the biceps and are visible in most people. However, underneath this muscle is a very important muscle, the soleus muscle. It is a smaller, flatter muscle that attaches deep to the upper portion of your tibia and fibula bones as well as to the membrane that attaches the too bones together.

The soleus attaches at the bottom to your leg to the heel bone via the Achilles tendon (along with the gastrocnemius and plantaris muscles.) Because the soleus attaches to your hell, it is a primary plantar flexor of the ankle. this means the soleus is the muscle most responsible for letting you push down firmly with the front of your foot. this is useful for walking, running, cycling, jumping, dancing, basketball, climbing and any activity where you need to push off on the front of your foot. Soleus also helps you standing up!

The gastrocnemius muscle attaches  to the lower portion of the femur (upper leg bone) just above the back of the crease of the knee. About midway down the back of the lower leg, this muscle attaches to the Achilles tendon (which attaches to your heel bone). Because the muscle fibers in the gastrocnemius are longitudinal fibers orienting on a vertical (sagital in anatomic terms) plane, they allow you to left he entire weight of our body! You need this power to be able to jump, climb and walk down stairs and hills. The gastrocs also help stabilize the ankle and knee joints and help control balance in your feet. although most people think of their calves as primarily the gastrocnemius muscles, surprisingly, this muscle doesn’t do much to help you move forward. Its more of a power muscle for spurts of movement like jumping and climbing (versus walking or jogging).

People often experience “Charley horses” or cramps in their gastrocnemeus muscles. But cramps or pain in soleus muscles can lead to pain in your heel, calf and back of your ankle as well.  And since soleus is used in to help maintain a standing position and for walking and running, overly tight soleus muscles can also contribute to low back pain in some people.

How to Stretch Soleus Muscles

1. Stand with your legs  in a mild lunge position (one leg in front of the other), feet about 2 feet apart.

2. Bend your front foot upward (dorsiflex your foot) while bending your back leg. Keep front leg straight.

3. Hold for 10-15 seconds then repeat with the other leg.

You should feel a good stretch in your soleus, but not much in your gastrocs.

How to Stretch Gastronemius Muscles

1. Stand facing about 3-4 feet from a flat wall.

2. Lean your body into the wall so that your palms are touching the wall and holding you up.

3. Now step backwards with one foot, bending your forward knee and keeping the back foot as flat tot the ground as possible.

4. “Lather, rinse, repeat” with the other leg.

You should feel a strong stretch in both your gastrocnemeus and your soleus, but more so in your gastrocs.

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