Foam rollers are the bane of any athlete's life. While they do cause a world of pain, they help speed up recovery and can improve your training.
What causes tight calves?
Common causes of tight calves include but are not limited to:
Spending the majority of your time in heels can cause your calf muscles to shorten. This then creates tension in the Achilles tendon and can lead to chronic pain. Damage to the calves caused by wearing high heels can be permanent.
When you sit down for long periods of time your calves shorten. So if you work in an office and walk around in heels all day, you’re very lucky if you’ve escaped the aches!
Over-working the calf muscles through exercise can also cause tightness due to the enhanced volume of neural stimulation. Running uphill is often a cause.
Jumping can over-work the calves as they work to explode you upwards and cushion the landing phase of the jump.
How do I use a foam roller?
Foam rolling uses a technique called self-myofascial release by manipulating and releasing fascial tension caused by trauma and inflammation, which can be particularly beneficial to tight aching calves. Follow these steps to successfully and efficiently foam roll your calves:
- Sit on the floor and place the foam roller underneath your calves, starting just beneath the knee.
- Place both hands by your sides and lift off as though you were performing a reverse plank, which places your bodyweight onto the calf muscles.
- Slowly push your body backwards so the foam roller rolls down to the Achilles and then roll forwards to return to the start position.
- As you roll you should feel trigger points, these are the places where there is the most tension in the calves and they will feel like painful knots as you roll over them. As you reach a knot, this is where you need to apply more pressure in order to release the tension. Slow down and use little pulses over the knot until you feel it reduce.
- To add increased pressure, isolate each calf one at a time, so now your upper body weight is focused over one leg.
- To intensify this further still, cross the legs one over the other, now your entire bodyweight is focused over one calf.
- As you roll your calf back and forth, rotate it slightly to make sure pressure is applied to the entire muscle. Try rolling with your feet facing inwards and outwards to combat the internal and external sides of the muscles.
Why should I use a foam roller?
Muscle knots can develop after a training session and are trigger points where the oxygen supply to the muscle is limited. Left untreated, these knots can cause a lot of pain and may eventually lead to a more serious injury. By foam rolling your calves and performing self-myofascial release you will prevent serious injury and encourage better recovery after a tough session.