You probably have heard of various leg stretching exercises that people do. Perhaps you even perform such leg stretches yourself. The advantage of such a routine is that you get to improve your balance and flexibility. In addition, you work on your muscles’ tightness, which might hinder your ability to indulge in activities such as walking, running, biking or jogging.
However, before you stretch, you ought to know more than just the importance of stretching. This is vital because it helps you avoid repeated mistakes that may jeopardize the effectiveness of your leg stretches.
These concepts are nothing new. They include when to do your leg stretches, how to do them or what types of stretching you do. Read on as we explore the best leg stretches, how to do them and how they benefit you.
Before deciding what leg stretches you will do, you must understand various types of stretches. They all involve different forms and have different results. You could do stretches for leg flexibility, for balance, or for getting rid of muscle tightness.
Different types of leg stretches perform various functions. Here are the basic types of stretches:
These are the most popular. Static stretching involves extending your muscles as far as possible and then holding this stretch for half a minute. There are two types of static stretches you can perform. They include:
Dynamic stretching entails continuous movement to imitate part of the exercise or sport you are performing. For instance, if you are an athlete, you could make the kind of slow strides that raise your knees close to your chest.
These stretches involve repeated bouncing movements. For example, dropping into a crouch and then rising in the air by pushing with the balls of your feet. This creates a switch between high and low speed.
These stretches are great to consider when you want to stretch your calf muscles. However, never start with these exercises. Experts recommend first doing static stretching before progressing to the ballistic stretches (7).
You can only do these stretches for two seconds at a time. However, you get to do several reps. In each rep, you are required to increase the intensity by increasing your stretching degree.
You can do these stretching exercises when you have a hard foam roller. This is one of the stretching exercises that help in improving muscle flexibility. It is vital to involve an instructor if you have never used a foam roller. Otherwise, without knowledge of the proper use of the foam roller, you increase the risk of injuries.
Although it seems straightforward, most people struggle to determine the most appropriate time to stretch. Some may argue it is before exercising while others believe it is suitable after working out. The fact is that you can stretch at any time (5).
You do not have to be working out for you to try full-body or leg stretches. Instead, you can stretch after you wake up, before you sleep or when you are free. Adults who are not under rehabilitation or injured are advised to stretch two or three days a week.
You are advised to do the following when doing your leg stretches:
You can miss out on the benefits of leg stretches if you do not perform them correctly. Here is a comprehensive guideline on how you stretch each of your leg muscles:
Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you. Straighten your back and slowly start to lean forward.
When you step out with one leg in front, shift your weight forward. Remember to press your heel firmly on the ground.
If you are doing standing up leg stretches, hold on to a stable object such as a chair. Do this using your right hand. It will help in improving your balance. Slowly bend your right leg and start reaching out your left hand behind your back. Extend as much as you can until you grip onto your right ankle.
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There are numerous leg stretches exercises. They all differ in form as well as the leg muscles they target. Each leg stretch performs a different function. Let us analyze these stretches with the prime focus on the muscles they target:
Runners and athletes have a high risk of injuries which can cause them to develop tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings can affect your movement ability. To avoid this, it is vital to do some hamstring stretches. Here are a couple of these exercises (6):
Here is how you do this:
You will need a strap for this stretching exercise. Once you have it, follow these steps:
If you do not want to lie down, you can opt for the standing hamstring stretch. It is as effective as the rest. It is also one of the best stretches for leg pain. However, seek medical advice before you start this stretching exercise for pain management. Here is how you do a standing hamstring stretch (3):
The procedure of doing a sitting hamstring stretch is as follows:
The toe touch stretch is quite vital for improving the flexibility of your hamstrings. Below is how you do a toe touch:
Your calf muscles run from the back of your knee to almost the half-way point of your lower leg (2). Sometimes this part may tend to be tight, resulting in either pain or soreness. You can stretch this area using the following exercises:
For this exercise, you can choose to use or not use the wall. Here is how you do this stretch in both techniques:
If you use the wall, then you will need to do the following:
If you choose not to use the wall, you will be required to do the following:
You will also need to use a wall for this exercise (1). Here are the steps of how to stretch your calf using this technique:
POINT: When stretching using this exercise, let your hips be centered over both your feet. Do not lean excessively or whatsoever on either side.
You can also stretch your calf muscles by doing the wall push exercise. As the name implies, the practice involves pressing against the wall and pushing it. Here is how you do this exercise:
These are among the most famous stretches for legs, and especially the calf muscles. Here is a guideline on how to do these raises:
You can also improve the flexibility of your calf muscles by doing the towel stretch. As the name suggests, you will need a towel for this exercise. Here is a guide on how you go about it:
POINT: Keep your back straight throughout this exercise. You can increase the intensity by pulling your towel harder. So, regulate your intensity using this tip.
The downward dog yoga pose is another excellent stretching exercise for your calf muscles. Here is how you do it:
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The one other part of your leg that you also need to stretch is the quadriceps muscles. These muscles are found in front of your thigh. If you do not correctly stretch them, you will suffer from tight quads. Tight quads affect your flexibility, meaning it interferes with activities like biking and running (4).
Some of the quads stretches you can perform include:
It would be best if you did the following to execute a standing quad stretch properly:
The lying knee-to-chest stretch targets not only your quads but also your hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back. The step-by-step guide below explains how you can do this stretching exercise:
There’s no doubt that stretching is essential for keeping your muscles limber and preventing injuries. However, there is such a thing as stretching too much or using poor form which can actually do more harm than good. Here are four leg stretching mistakes to avoid.
When you stretch, you should never bounce into the position. This puts unnecessary stress on your muscles and can actually lead to injury. Instead, slowly ease into the stretch and hold it for 20-30 seconds.
It’s important not to overdo it when stretching. You should only stretch to the point of mild discomfort, not pain. Overstretching can lead to muscle tears and other injuries.
One way to know if you’re overdoing it, is to develop a muscle-mind connection. This means being aware of which muscle group you’re targeting and focusing on it while stretching. Once you feel the muscle tense up, back off the stretch a bit.
Stretching is more effective when you breathe deeply and slowly throughout the stretch. Holding your breath actually causes your muscles to tense up, which defeats the purpose of stretching.
When stretching, be sure to use good form. This means keeping your back straight, shoulders down, and avoiding any jerky or bouncy movements.
Stretches that require your knees to be bent past 90 degrees or that have you folding forward at the waist are particularly likely to yield poor form and injuries. If you can’t maintain good form, it’s best to skip that particular stretch.
If you choose to do those stretches, keep your feet flat on the floor, your back straight, and your knees above your ankles.
To reap the full benefits of stretching, it’s important to do it regularly. That means at least a few times a week, if not every day. A consistent stretching routine will help keep your muscles flexible and prevent injuries in the long run.
Leg stretches are great exercises to improve the flexibility and balance of your legs. They are also significant ways of getting rid of your lower body muscles’ tightness such as your quads. Remember to speak to a professional before you start any leg stretching exercise program.
All the views expressed in this article are for informational purposes only. Do not start any leg stretching program without professional assistance.