Do you have super tight calves~ want a deeper plié?

Do you have tight calves?

Do you have  super tight calves? Runners and dancers live with this problem. Dancers especially have difficulty keeping their calf muscles in a fluid state as we constantly use them in all of our technique.

tight calves

The confounding problem is also that dancers are more “stretched out” than the average person. The typical calf stretches, “the runner’s stretch”, just don’t work. It does not get into the nitty gritty of the muscle belly for dancers. How many times have you gone to a PT or a doctor and they give you a runner’s stretch? (The little lunge with your legs in parallel, one behind the other.) You can even add the plié in the back leg and nothing significant happens.

The reason is that your fascia is stuck… adhered... something of that sort. I just know that this release works! I bought a course from an online PT and I learned this release with a rolling pin. It is the awesome sauce of all calf muscle relief!

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True story

One of my students has a “short” achilles tendon. That term is loosely stated as there is no evidence of an anatomical abnormality :). However, often her heels come up easily in pliés, after relevé and landing in jumps. When I ask her if she has tight calves, she usually replies “No.”.

Improve your plié

I wanted to test my theory that if she could get her fascia to release, her plié would improve.  I imagined that if the fascia were released that it would be like untying  knots in a long web of the fascia layer.  Her muscles and tendons would gain more length and freedom of movement.

I put it to the test. She did a plié in first position before class. It was typically fairly shallow. Next she did the rolling pin fascia release and we observed the difference in her second plié. It was deeper and her leg felt lighter!

This lovely dancer was also working on a strenuous variation which involved nine sustained relevés on the same foot. Of course, that leg became very tight. This technique kept her muscles healthy and working correctly.

Any work like this will prevent injury and help rehabilitate a chronic injury. As a ballet teacher, I have those issues myself. Teachers often demonstrate and are not fully warmed-up. I often go home with tight muscles in my legs and feet. After over thirty years of teaching, I have developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot several times. This calf work has had the same level of success as the Graston technique but it can be done by you rather than a chiropractor. My fasciitis is not completely gone, but this have offered some relief.

DIY ballet hack
Use a rolling pin to keep your muscles loose before and after class!

What you will need:

A rolling pin and a padded chair. (I use a dining room chair)

How:

  1. Bend you knee and place on a padded chair.
  2. Place the rolling pin on the calf muscle just below the knee. Be aware of any lumps or hard tissue. The pain level and pressure will alert you as well. If your fascia is cranky, it will hurt.
  3. Do not roll the rolling pin. Rather press down with both hands on either end of it, and pin the fascia against the muscle or shin. Flex and point your foot and rotate it in circles. Do this for about 20 seconds.
  4. It is important to start at the top of the calf and work your way down in about four sections ending withe achilles tendon fascia. Most likely dancers will feel it mostly in the lower calf and on the achilles tendon. However, it is very individual and no place is incorrect.
  5. Spend some time shifting your weight and pinning where you find tough spots. It is okay to repeat spots after you have progressed through the four sections. I usually go back once and repeat the tightest area.

I made a video of this release and it is in the Members Only section. Use your password to watch it! There are a couple of bonus suggestions at the end of the video too. Be sure to watch the entire 2.5 minute video.

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About Sarah Arnold

Ballet blogger, ballet teacher and adult ballerina. Creator of TutusChic and Sans Souci Printables.

3 thoughts on “Do you have super tight calves~ want a deeper plié?

  1. Hi Sarah, I am a long time subscriber, but I do not recall having been sent the password to the members only section.
    I have checked my past emails and cannot find it. Can you resend it to me via email? Thanks, Mary.

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