Updated: October 21st, 2015

So many runners suffer with chronically tight calf muscles and the frustration of calf pain as a result of running.

Over the years, I’ve found self massage techniques to be highly effective in managing tight calves… this is something I’ve had to work on from personal experience!

Thankfully there are a number of different techniques you can use with the foam roller to provide a great self massage effect for those legs.

In this video I take you through three of the main techniques I use for the calf region.

Let me know how you get on 🙂

You can find more of James’ advice on Kinetic-Revolution and here is our recommended foam roller.

[Here below the transcript of the video]

Hey there, guys. It’s James here again from Kinetic Revolution.

I’ve been asked to make a quick video on foam rolling particularly for those calves. For those of you who like the idea of seeing me in pain, perhaps a little bit of payback for some of the exercises I’ve had you doing over the last little while, this is going probably to be quite fun for you because I hate foam rolling my calves.

That said, it’s massively helpful for a lot of runners. It’s a nice area where a little bit of self-massage often doesn’t go amiss. I want to show you a quick little routine you can work through to really get the most out of this piece of kit when it comes to these calf muscles. Let me show you. We start out foam roller just underneath out of the bottom end of this whole complex so underneath the Achilles. From there we could start out doing both legs at once and just spreading the load and going a little bit easy, but I tend to get straight in and do one leg at a time.

Going one leg at a time we can stick the weight of the other leg over the top to really start to compress. From here I’ll take the weight on my hands, and I spend the best part of a minute just working up and down, up and down, full length of my calf with the roller. I make sure that I’m not just keeping the leg straight here. I’m also going to rotate out to a degree and rotate in, so I’m going to get more of a lateral calf when I’m rotated out, more of the medial calf complex when I’m rotated in.

I’m going to be getting, as I get higher up the calf, more of gastroc. Again, rotating out, it’s lateral head of gastroc. Rotating in, medial head of gastroc. As I get that little bit lower down I’m going to be getting perhaps that little bit more into soleus. As I roll in, perhaps a little bit of tibialis posterior. It looks like this. Minute up and down with plenty of rolling out and plenty of rolling in, essentially just feeling like you’re getting into every major area of that calf complex.

As you’re doing that, be wary of what it is you’re feeling because at points you’re going to feel like you’re almost starting to bump over little what will feel like little nodules or little knots or little areas that feel particularly tender. With those little areas what I want to then do, once you’ve gone through each side through a minute, perhaps do that even once or twice, I want to find one of those areas. For me I know around about here there’s a little spot which felt that little bit more tender.

What I want to do is again just start to put a bit of pressure over the top and then very gently just start to oscillate side to side over the top of that knot. Now this gentle bit of oscillation side to side, a little bit of cross friction bearing in mind that the muscle fibers are straight up and down. The side to side is working across that 90 degree angle to muscle fibers themselves. We’re starting to cross friction that whole area quite nicely.

After a while you should start to feel that that starts to, as much as it’s intense, and it might feel a little bit painful, it certainly does here, it actually starts to calm down. That knot becomes a little bit less prominent, if you like. We can do that in various different areas. We can work a little bit higher up. I know for me as you get higher up it’s lateral gastroc again. I’ve got a similar area I can just sit on top of and just start to get that little bit of oscillation. Half an inch to an inch in each direction over the top of that knot. Again, that side to side plane. You keep going with that across multiple areas in this whole lower leg, the posterior components of that lower leg depending on where you feel those little bits of restriction, where you feel those little trigger points and sit on them and just gently work them out with that little bit of side to side movement.

Again, we come back to our up and down strokes. Again our slightly more vigorous if you like, back and forth movement. This as much as anything else is really good for just getting the blood flowing and getting everything moving in that area quite nicely. From there though we can again get into a position where we find any little restriction, any little tender spot. We can fix the upper leg over the top and rather than essentially wiggling side to side, rather than getting into that cross friction what we can do is actually start to move the ankle, pumping the ankle up and down into dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion. We can start again to work that muscle through range of motion as we just start to add in that little bit of, essentially, it’s an active release. We can work one spot. We can then go find another so for me just in here. It feels like I’m actually going to get quite deep. It feels like I’m almost getting into a little bit of tibialis posterior there.

Again, up and down, up and down, up and down, just starting to get nicely working through the motion rather than holding that ankle in a static position, holding that muscle in one specific range of motion. Again, we get back into up and down, up and down, up and down either a little bit more gently this time keeping the other leg on the ground to offer support, or we can get back into adding the weight of the other leg over the top. Again, I really wanted to show you those 3 different techniques, the long strokes getting different parts of the leg by adding in the rotation, different parts of that calf complex by adding the rotation. I wanted to show you the cross frictions so working side to side on a given point, and I wanted to show you the active release technique. Have a go at this. Listen to your body. Listen to the areas that feel they are that little bit more tender, if you like. Don’t work up and feel 7, 8, 9, 10 out of 10 kind of pain, but I’d expect this to be, let’s say, uncomfortable at least. As you work into that little bit of a tender area you should find that starts to calm down. Give it a go. Let me know how you get on.

Today’s video came as a result of someone asking me a question asking about getting the most out of their foam roller when it comes to calf self-massage. If you’ve got any questions on your mind, if you’re got any questions that you think I can help you with when it comes to your running, your rehab, injury prevention work, let me know. Ask a comment, ask a question in the comments, and I’ll see what I can do in terms of putting a video together, so that we can all benefit. Speak to you soon.

Bye now. Hey, thanks for watching. Don’t forget to hit that like button down there. Also leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe for more videos very soon from Kinetic Revolution. Speak to you soon. Bye now.

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