A friend of mine recently reached out for help with her tight calves.
When your calves are incessantly and outrageously tight and tender to touch, what is there to do?
In my mind, it’s generally a matter of them controlling your whole body. Your brain doesn’t sense that you have control of your center of mass. That could be because it really doesn’t have control or because it does but doesn’t know it.
You can do foam rolling or massage stuff for your calves if it makes you feel better. I would always suggest following it up with something more active, like a movement of some sort that is reinforcing the calf inhibition you’re looking for.
Ultimately, though, you need to make sure you have a position of control in the center of your body first and foremost. So a really effectively done push up could work well, as long as you don’t do it like those you normally see in the military at the end of a push up test. You may even want to increase the stability demands there and pick up one hand. Or increase the demands even more by taking a breath into the middle of your body, that is, not your neck. All the while relaxing your feet. That’s all.
A push up will help you get this position of control for most of your body, but I would always suggest incorporating a lower body challenge as well. Something even as simple as a deadlift can actually help tone down your lower legs if you’re pushing the weight up with your massive dancer legs instead of trying to pull the bar up through your calves and back. But a deadlift can mess you up if you’re aren’t sure what you’re doing.
If you can, you should try to own a single leg Romanian deadlift (couple posts on that). Especially if you can do it with only one weight to offset the load in one direction or the other. Do it both ways. Catch yourself at the bottom with your hamstrings, hang onto them on the way back up, then finish at the top by adding in a little inner thigh and glute muscle action.
A sound training program with a coach that puts you in good positions is basically addressing your tight calves for the whole hour session (or however long). Keep your feet relaxed and, if you can’t feel an exercise with the right muscles, do something else.