In part one of this mini-series on tight calves we learned about why the gastroc typically gets tight. In summary, our body spends too much time moving forward. If you haven't already done so, make sure that you read part one so that you can connect all the dots.
Another huge component of tight calves, especially in the fitness world, is that the muscles that we love to train in the gym are the same muscles that are propelling us forward and causing these problems. Lats, pecs, biceps and quads are all power muscles that get all the love in the weight room. They are the easiest to access too. But without enough variability in your program, something is going to jump out at you (like tight calves).
Elite athletes are typically the best examples of great movement and function. They move better than most and are extremely explosive as a result. If you have tight calves, you probably don't jump very high because your body's alignment is likely thrown off. You can read some more about how this affects your ability to jump here.
One last thing to discuss before we show you some exercises is that your vision will be a major player in this process. Your vision has a MASSIVE role in the function of your body and more than likely you use it primarily to look forwards and navigate objects that are in front of you. If you are constantly focusing on objects (which I'll guarantee you that you do) near and far...cough-cell phones-cough....than your vision may block you from loosening those calves. You have to read this article about vision if you actually want to understand this problem. And you may want to consider this article on structuring exercises to help your visual system.
So now you know that your body is falling forward, so what do you think would be a great first step to correcting this imbalance?
1. Reverse Sled Drag: I like to say that we can BLAST corrective tone into someone's body through weight lifting and this is the perfect example. I can move backwards in this exercise and do it loaded so that I can get a training effect out of it. Now, over time, I'm creating a positive change in the body.
2. Pushups: Pushups are about as basic of an exercise as it gets because it's a closed chain exercise, you're actually learning to propel your body backwards as opposed to the bench press where you are moving the weight forward. You can load this up with weight vests and plates if you're concerned you won't get enough of a training effect out of it.
3. Single Leg Hip Thrusts: I always prefer the single leg option because that is how the body is designed. Since we are discussing calves here, I want to make sure that we are especially functional in the lower half so single leg is always the best. As for the exercise, I'm heavily targeting the hamstrings with this one. I know that it will have a great effect on my hips by having stronger hamstrings and will directly take stress away from the calves. The calves and hamstrings are fascially connected and intertwined right behind the knee. They always need to be addressed together.
Once you understand the dynamics of why these things happen, you can be creative with what exercises you choose or even coming up with your own. I would encourage you to pick one thing to work on at a time. Simplicity is a major key to achieving success in this world.
Other things to consider include:
- Neurology: If you've followed my content for any period of time, you know that this is the money-maker. If you don't understand the brain, you're simply hoping for the best. Get started on your neuro journey with this article.
- Other Training Types: If you're working with someone who doesn't want to weight lift, that's fine. Chances are, if they aren't a weight lifter, your job will be easier. Look into some other options but be aware of the plusses and minuses of each. Here's an article to get your wheels spinning on the pros and cons of yoga.
Here at 4A, this is what we do. We have built a model to accommodate all of the above. You are certainly beginning to realize that there are a lot of things to consider but our genMAX model is highly simplistic in application. Simplicity breeds success.