A frequently seen stretch for the calf muscles and Achilles tendon is the "lunge and lean" stretch. It is one of the least effective ways to stretch your calf and Achilles. Although many people spend much time doing this stretch, they often get little or no stretch:
- Bending over forward reduces the stretch and trains the same bent forward position that you already know is poor posture when you sit like that at your desk or steering wheel.
- Sticking your hips out in back reduces the stretch on the Achilles tendon.
- Turning your back foot outward, even a small amount, reduces, and often eliminates the stretch completely.
The "lunge and lean" is not highly effective, even when done "well," and is often done in the ineffective ways listed above. This is one reason why Achilles tendon stretching doesn't seem to be cutting down on injuries as hoped. Instead of the "lunge and lean," following is a quick, effective way to stretch your calf and Achilles tendon:
- Stand facing a wall at about arm's length away.
- Stand with both feet facing straight ahead - parallel - not turned out, even a small amount.
- Put one foot on the wall at knee height. Press that heel toward the wall.
- Look down and see if the foot you are standing on is facing directly ahead. Make that standing foot straight, not turned out; not even a little.
- Do not lean toward the wall. Lift your chest until you are standing straight.
- Don't let your hip curl under or your standing knee or hip bend.
- Smile, relax shoulders, and breathe.
- Hold a few seconds and switch legs.
Many people are so tight, that as soon as they raise one leg against the wall, their standing foot turns out without their even noticing it, and they round their back. Don't stretch wrong, allowing the tightness to perpetuate.
The closer you press your heel toward the wall, the more stretch. If you are tight, you will get substantial stretch just getting close. The purpose of this move is not to touch the wall by any means possible, but to get a functional stretch and not automatically go to unhealthful positioning. Do the purpose of the stretch - to retrain the same healthy positioning you need for real life.
Stretching is supposed to be healthy. When you stretch, don't practice bad bent over posture habits. Stretch in ways to make your daily life healthier.