How To Massage the Back Calf Muscles: Pinpointing Muscle Groups for Massage

Massaging the calf will be more effective if you know how to pinpoint its different muscle groups. The calf muscles are generally divided in two groups—the superficial layer and the deep layer. The superficial layer is the layer visible to the eye and what can be easily pinpointed by hands. However, the deep layer sits after the superficial layer, making it impossible for easy pinpointing. For this article, you will learn how to pinpoint the different muscles of the superficial layer so that massaging the back calf will be more effective.

There are three muscle groups in the superficial layer of the calf.

  • Gastrocnemius. This is the most visible muscle of the calf. It becomes a diamond-shaped muscle once the calf is fully developed. Touch the back calf and you can immediately touch the gastrocnemius. This muscle is responsible for giving power to make walking, sprinting, and jumping possible. This muscle also helps in bending the knee.
  • Soleus. This muscle lies underneath the gastrocnemius. This is a bit smaller than the first muscle, though its functions are the same as the former. Together with the gastrocnemius, the soleus forms the popular Achilles tendon.
  • Plantaris. This is a small muscle just at the top of the gastrocnemius. It functions as a supportive muscle for the other superficial layer muscles.

Here are the steps on how to identify or pinpoint the calf muscles:

  • Let the person lie on his chest. Put a small pillow underneath his one leg. The pillow should encourage the foot to stretch down so that the ankle is pointing on a slanting upward direction.
  • Apply lubricant on the back calf. Oil or lotion will do as a lubricant. You need to apply lubricant so that it will be easy for your hands and fingers to slide on the calf and pinpoint the calf muscles. Applying the lubricant will already help you feel the calf muscles.
  • Feel the gastrocnemius muscles. Cup your hand and then touch the calf’s contour from the sides. Start from near the ankles up to the knee joint. There, you can already feel the sides of the gastrocnemius muscle.
  • Find the separate point of the gastrocnemius muscle. This muscle can be divided in two. The separation becomes obvious on well-developed calf muscles. You can find the point of separation by pressing your thumb on the lower leg’s bone from near the ankle. Press it down and once you feel something hard, slowly slide your thumb up. You should see that there is an engraved line as you press towards up. That line is the space, separating the two sides of the gastrocnemius
  • Find the soleus. Press the sides of the calf with your two hands’ index and middle fingers. Slowly slide the fingers from near the ankles up to the knee joint. The teardrop-shape muscle that is near the ankle is the soleus.

It is easy to pinpoint the superficial calf muscles because they tend to bulge as you press on the muscles. They don’t easily separate and so, they can be easily identified. Once the muscles are identified, you can start massaging the muscles by group. For example, start massaging the soles, the left side of gastrocnemius and the right side of the gastrocnemius. The muscle nearest to the knee joint is the plantaris. It can be massaged along with massaging the knee joint.


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