My Aching Calves – Part Two

So glad you came back for more information on how to stretch your way to relief of those tight, sore calf muscles!

I start by coming clean about what I call my “love-hate relationship” with the foam roller. My friend and former personal trainer, Rich, introduced me to the foam roller years ago, but I have to admit I stopped using it for quite some time. Now, I truly wish I stuck with it.

Just how does the foam roller fit in to flexibility training? It is an integral tool used in a stretching technique called self-myofascial release, often shortened to SMR. The idea is that by applying pressure to a muscle adhesion, commonly referred to as a “knot,” you initiate a process called autogenic inhibition. My NASM textbook defines autogenic inhibition as:”the process when neural impulses sensing tension are greater than the impulses causing muscle contraction. Stimulation of the Golgi tendon organ overrides the muscle spindle.” In simple terms, you use the foam roller to apply pressure to the most tender spot in your tight calf muscles and you will eventually feel the knot “release” itself.

Here’s how to effectively use the foam roller on the calves:

  1. Sit on the floor, and put the foam roller under the mid-calf of your right leg. You can cross your left leg over the right to increase the pressure. (This is optional)
  2. Roll back and forth ONLY until you find the most tender spot on the calf and then HOLD there for a minimum of 20-30 seconds.  You need to hold on this spot to allow time for autogenic inhibition to kick in. Keep breathing in and out and before you know it, you will actually feel the muscle release. (This may take up to two minutes.)
  3. Repeat the same process for the left leg.
The jury seems to be out on whether you should do SMR before or after you workout. Personally, it helps me to perform SMR on my calves both before and after my workout, as my goal is to perform exercises like squats and lunges as optimally as possible. If time is an issue, I’d say make sure at a minimum you add the foam roller a part to your cool down.
    Self-myofascial release can help with more than just your tight calves. Be sure to check back for more foam roller stretches that can help you have fun, be fit and be fabulous!

About LauraLovesFitness

After spending more than 10 years in the communications industry, this lifetime fitness lover and newly certified fitness professional wants to share my passion for health and well-being with others.

Posted on November 9, 2011, in Fitness, Health and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Is it true that using a foam roller on your calves can also prevent knee- cracking when squating and doing other stretches and movements with your lower boddy? Is it safe to use a foam roller to crack your mid-lower back?

    • Hi Lea, This is a great question. My knees crack almost every time I bend them, whether I’m picking something up or doing squats. Unfortunately, for me, this cracking is often accompanied by pain, and my doctor has told me the cracking is an early sign of arthritis. If you experience popping or cracking that is accompanied by any type of discomfort, I strongly recommend you see a doctor to rule out a serious problem, like torn cartilage, before continuing any activity that could make the condition worse. I have read different views on what to do to “stop” the sounds, but here is one link you may find helpful:
      As for using the foam roller on your back, first let me say this: I would never recommend you “force” to crack any part of your body. If you properly perform foam roller exercises and other stretches and things crack, again, if you’ve gotten no red flags from a physician, then it is probably okay to proceed. Here is a link illustrating foam roll exercises for both your upper and lower back.:
      Let me know how it goes!

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