Quick Tip to Improve Dorsiflexion (making your calve stretch more effective)

Happy Thursday Night!

I just got home from a trip to Arizona and I am ready for bed, but I wanted to share something with you that I have been using. After I perform soft tissue work on the lower extremity (foam rolling, SMR, manual therapy, trigger point therapy, active release technique…you name it) I like to apply a stretch or lengthening technique. Static stretching can work great when trying to restore length, but at times you may find that it is limited in it’s effectiveness. I prefer to stay with one ankle for about 90 seconds. The first 30 seconds will be a static stretch on a slant board. Make sure the heel is down, toes are straight or slightly in and quad is engaged. Then I back off about 5-10% from my end range of motion and perform a muscle energy technique (MET or contract relax). I engage the muscles that I am trying to stretch for 4-5 seconds with a low amount of force. Then I relax them and ease deeper into the stretch. Here’s the twist…instead of engaging the plantar flexors in the calve the we focus on most of the time, I start with the muscles that perform dorsiflexion and flexion of the toes, specifically the flexor hallucis longus and the flexor digitorum longus. Sure, you may get some posterior tibialis in there too, that’s okay. I do this by flexing the first MTP joint by instead of pushing the ball of the foot down into the board. Don’t forget, there are seven muscles that can create open chain plantar flexion:

  • the gastrocnemius
  • the soleus
  • the peroneus longus
  • the peroneus brevis
  • the tibialis posterior
  • the flexor hallucis longus and
  • the flexor digitorum longus

"Hey! Take me out of that shoe and stretch me out!!!"

From there, I hold a static stretch for 20-30 second sand then perform a second MET focusing on plantar flexion by trying to lift the heel off of the slant board for 4-5 seconds then returning to another 20-30 second static stretch.

Give this corrective exercise technique a shot and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend!

Eric Beard
CEO A-Team
Corrective Exercise Specialist

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