Calves and Achilles Tendon

Q: My 17 year old son is beginning an off-season training program for quarterbacks. He was born with club foot, but had casts put on his feet immediately to correct this problem. He also wore corrective footwear for many years. At this point, though, he cannot keep his right foot flat on the ground when he bends his knee, thus making it impossible to perform squats, deadlifts, etc. The problem is not as pronounced in his left foot. It seems as if his Achilles tendon and calves are very tight. His calf muscles are very undeveloped. What can be done to help stretch out the Achilles and calves, or would he need to be examined by a doctor first? Could you please advise me?

A: Static stretching using a device like the ProStretch, PNF stretching or even active-isolated stretching will all help to a certain degree (visit http://www.cmcrossroads.com/bradapp/docs/rec/stretching/stretching_toc.html for more details on these terms), but I have found that the best way to achieve ROM in the Achilles and calves is to utilize the passive stretch from weight training. In other words, have him perform several sets of both seated and standing calf raises (to stretch out the soleus and gastrocnemius respectively) with a progressively heavier weight holding the stretch position for up to 15 seconds. Also, send him for some A.R.T. (to find a practitioner in your area, go to http://www.activerelease.com/.) And finally, consider using heel lifts when he performs his squats and deadlifts. Over time, try to decrease the height of the lift (make it a subtle change.) It would be wise, though, to have a doctor examine him first.