Unfortunately this muscle is given little or no importance and this paves way for some of the deadliest running world injuries like:
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Retro Calcaneal Bursitis
- Calf Muscle Strain
- Plantar Fasciitis
The soleus muscle is also of great importance when it comes to blood circulation to the leg. This muscle is otherwise called the ‘peripheral heart’, meaning, this muscle acts as a pump to push blood from the legs back to the heart.
It is essential to stretch this muscle before and after exercises or running. Failing to address this muscle in the form of stretches would result in tightening of this muscle and reduced efficiency of the muscle to sustain repetitive movement and hence the proximal and the distal structures namely the gastrocnemius, Achilles and plantar fascia starts to compensate for the loss and end up straining themselves resulting in any one of the above mentioned injuries.
These injuries could result in severe heel pain, arch pain, pain in the calf and sometimes mechanical knee pains too as the gastrocnemius muscle originates behind the knee joint. Observing any of the above symptoms one needs to ice it and inculcate a structured stretching and strengthening regimen for the soleus and gastrocnemius muscled as shown below. Ensure these muscles are always flexible and strong.
Save your soul……Run with it always. Injury freeee.
Exercises to stretch and strengthen the soleus and gastrocnemius
Seated Outer Calf Stretch
Sit on the floor and extend your right leg before you. Lean forward with your torso, extend your left hand to grasp the right foot and pull it inwards. This gives a nice stretch to the outer calf muscle. Hold for 5 -10 slow breaths. Repeat with the left leg. If you are not able to extend the legs out straight, bend the knee slightly.
Seated Calf Stretch
Remain seated on the floor. Extend your right leg before you. Lean forward with your torso, extend both hands towards your right foot, pulling it towards your body to give a deep stretch to the calf muscle. Hold for 5 -10 slow breaths. Repeat with the left leg.
If leaning forward is difficult, you can perform the stretch with an exercise band or a towel (as below).
Seated Soleus Stretch
Sitting on the floor, extend one leg forward but with the knee bent at an angle of roughly 120 degrees and the leg supported by placing the heel on the floor with toes pointed upwards. Lean forward and pull the foot of the extended leg towards your torso to stretch the soleus. Hold the stretch for 5 -10 slow breaths. Repeat with the other leg.
Standing Soleus Stretch
Stand with a small foam roller of about three-inch diameter placed approximately a foot behind you (you can use a rolled up rug or carpet). Bend forward and extending one leg behind, placing the foot on the roller. Stretch the foot of the extended leg towards the floor, trying to touch the ground with your heel. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths. Repeat with the other leg.