2 Seated Soleus Stretches (Overcome Tight Lower Legs)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: March 29, 2024
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I often find I have tight calf muscles that can impact my leg workouts. And while there are many forms of soleus stretches, there is one that I have found to be more effective both for a warm-up and cool-down phase.

Most people don’t pay much attention to the seated soleus stretch, so I got my physio to help me put together some instructions and a few alternatives that you can use to effectively stretch your lower leg muscles.

Let me show you how easy it is.

Quick Summary

  • The seated soleus stretch is an effective method for stretching the lower leg muscles, suitable for both warm-up and cool-down phases.
  • This stretch is easy to perform and allows for controlled stretching without the need for balancing, making it ideal for people with tight soleus muscles from sitting or strength training.
  • According to the National Institute of Health, sitting can add tightness to the gastrocnemius muscle, highlighting the importance of regular soleus stretching.
  • In my view, the seated soleus stretch is a highly beneficial and underrated exercise, especially for those who spend long periods sitting or are engaged in intense leg workouts.

How Do You Stretch Soleus Seated?

Using a resistance band to perform soleus seated stretch

In order to stretch the soleus muscle while seated, you have to adjust the ankle joint angle further than you can by just flexing it.

I recommend incorporating a leaning or pulling motion to fully extend the calf muscle.

You can do this by lifting one leg up, leaving the other foot on the ground, and then pulling your toes towards your body.

Or you can leave your feet on the ground with one foot under the chair and then lean forward to increase the stretch.

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Easy Seated Soleus Stretch

Here are some more detailed instructions to help you do this stretch in a seated position:

  • Start off by sitting on the front edge of a chair or bench with both feet on the ground.
  • Lift your right knee up, leave the other foot on the ground, and use both hands to grab hold of your toes.
  • Pull the toes up towards the right knee and feel a stretch in your soleus muscle.
  • Lower the right knee down and repeat the same on the other side.

Alternatively, you can place the right foot on the ground slightly under the chair and then lean forward to increase the stretch.

Benefits of Soleus Stretches

  • Improves Flexibility: Regular soleus stretching enhances the muscle's flexibility, aiding in smoother ankle and knee movements.
  • Reduces Injury Risk: By increasing elasticity in the soleus, it helps prevent strains and injuries, especially during physical activities.
  • Enhances Circulation: Stretching the soleus muscle promotes better blood flow, aiding in muscle recovery and health.
  • Alleviates Pain: Helps in reducing discomfort in the calves, especially for individuals who stand or walk for long periods.
  • Better Athletic Performance: A flexible soleus muscle contributes to improved overall lower body performance, benefiting activities like running and jumping.

Some Alternative Options

Alternative options for seated soleus stretch

I often advise my clients that if the seated position doesn't provide an adequate stretch, they can enhance the intensity by utilizing exercises that leverage their body weight.

These alternative methods can effectively deepen the stretch.

1. Standing Stretch

You can easily follow these instructions in between exercises:

  • Stand with one foot under your hips and the other foot slightly behind you.
  • Bend the back knee slightly until you feel the stretching sensation.
  • Hold it for 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

2. Wall Lunge

Here is another standing version where you need a wall or other solid vertical surface:

  • Stand with both legs straight, about two feet away from a wall.
  • Extend the right leg forward and place your toes against the wall, about five inches off the floor, while pushing your heel to the ground.
  • Lean towards the wall and feel a stretch in your soleus.

How Often Should You Do These Stretches?

Performing stretch on legs

You should do a seated soleus stretch before every lower-body workout.

It’s also a good idea to add it as part of a cooldown if you’ve been training your calf muscles.

The other thing you might consider is doing these stretches once or twice a day if you sit at a desk for long periods of time.

According to the National Institute of Health, sitting can add tightness to the gastrocnemius muscle as it doesn’t get used as much throughout the day [1].

You could also use a foam roller to gently massage the muscles and improve blood circulation.

“The soleus is essential for everyday activities, such as running, walking, standing, dancing, and balancing.”

- William Morrison, M.D.

FAQs

How Do You Release A Tight Soleus?

The best way to release a tight soleus is with a seated soleus stretch. Doing this while sitting down gives you a lot more control over the amount of stretch you place on these muscles.

What Is The Cause Of Tight Soleus Muscles?

The main causes of tight soleus muscles are sitting down for long periods of time and tough strength training. Doing a seated soleus stretch can significantly reduce that tightness and only takes a few minutes to complete.

What Is the Difference Between Calf Stretch and Soleus Stretch?

The calf stretch targets the gastrocnemius muscle, typically performed with a straight leg, while the soleus stretch focuses on the soleus muscle, requiring a bent knee to isolate and effectively stretch this deeper, lower leg muscle.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532946/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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