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A calf stretcher is a device that helps the user stretch the muscles of the calf before or after exercise to help prevent injury and build flexibility in the leg muscles. Several versions of the calf stretcher exist, from very simple inclines to more elaborate devices that roll the leg back and forth. All calf stretcher devices achieve the same goal, however, which is to isolate the calf muscles and effectively stretch them in preparation for exercise or simply to prevent injury.
The most basic calf stretcher is any wall. By pointing the toes upward and pressing them against the wall, then leaning forward toward the wall, a user can stretch the muscles of the calf and promote flexibility. This method, however, sometimes does not allow the user to put enough pressure on the foot to sufficiently stretch the calf. It can also be a difficult position to maintain, as the weight of the body must lean forward toward the wall enough that balance can still be maintained.
A common version of the calf stretcher is a plastic device that is shaped like a half-moon. It has a support on one end for the heel, and another on the other end for the ball of the foot. The user places one foot onto the supports, then he or she rolls the foot backward so the toes point upward. This promotes range of motion in the ankle and calf muscles. The device is lightweight and portable, making it a good choice for a home or office.
Some gyms and fitness centers offer other, simpler versions of the calf stretcher. One such variation is the incline stretcher. This triangular-shaped box sits on the floor. The end closest to the user will be even with the ground, and the end farthest away will be several inches higher than the ground. A flat plank connects the two ends and provides a flat surface for the user to step upon. When the user steps on the platform, the toes naturally point upward, and the user can lean forward to stretch the calf muscles.
The stepped bar calf stretcher allows the user to start with a small stretch and work his or her way to a deeper stretch. This stretcher has several horizontal bars that the user can place his or her toes upon. The lower bars give a smaller stretch, while the higher bars provide a greater stretch. If these machines are unavailable to a user, he or she can step up onto the first step in a stairway, or on a spare scrap of wood around the garage.