It is July and prime running season, so in honor of good weather and running conditions, this month’s muscle is the soleus.
The soleus is one of your calf muscles, the other being the gastrocnemius (the big, meaty part of the calf that we all see). The soleus attaches from your tibia and fibula (these are the bones in your legs) behind the knee to your heel via the Achilles tendon underneath the gastroc. The soleus muscle does not cross the knee, so in order to stretch the soleus, we need to bend the knee to “turn off” our gastroc and engage the soleus.
Not only will stretching the soleus give our calves some much needed TLC, this is also a great stretch to perform prior to squatting, as both calf muscles are responsible for plantar flexion of the foot at the ankle (fancy talk for being able to move your toes towards and away from your shin). However, in traditional calf stretches, the gastroc is engaged first and the soleus is neglected and not actually stretched. And a tight soleus can be a cause for butt-winking, your heels lifting in the bottom of a squat, or the inability to keep your toes pointed (mostly) straight forward. So the next time you stretch your calves, try with a bent knee. Hopefully you feel the stretch deeper in your calf!