Stretching is very important, though often overlooked, in ensuring that your joints and muscles stay strong. Stretching your muscles also helps make them less susceptible to injuries. You should always stretch your legs before and after doing any kind of physical activity to ensure good health. Knowing what kind of stretches are effective for your legs can help keep you injury-free, in addition to building a little more muscle.
While standing, put one hand on a stationary object, then lift the opposite foot behind you, bending at the knee. Use your free hand to pull your foot behind your back until it makes contact with your buttocks. Keep your back straight and pull your foot as high as you can until you feel the front of your thighs stretching. This stretch will increase the flexibility and strength of your quadriceps, located in front of your thigh.
Lie on your back, keeping your back flat on the ground. Lift one leg up and pull on the back of your thigh. Keep your knee slightly bent while doing this exercise. Pull your thigh up until it is at a 90-degree angle with your body. When your leg is at this angle, slowly straighten your knee until you feel the back of your leg stretch. This greatly increases the strength of your hamstring, which is located on the back of your upper leg or thigh.
Sit on a table, placing your inside leg on the table and putting your outside leg down, dangling towards or resting on the ground. Keeping the leg on the table straight, lean forward and reach as far as you can with your arms until you feel your calf and the area behind your knee stretching. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly go back to your starting point. Switch back and forth between legs to increase the strength in your calves, located just below the back of your knee.
Stand between two and three feet away from a wall and put your hands against it. Lean towards the wall without moving your legs or changing your feet's position. Keep your knees straight and do not bend your waist. Your heels should be in full contact with the ground at all times during this exercise. Lean closer to the wall until you feel your calves stretching. Hold the position for a few seconds, then slowly push yourself back to the original position. Repeat this a few times to stretch your calf muscles.
Butterfly/Inner Thigh Stretch
Sit on the ground in a cross-legged position. Instead of crossing your legs, though, place the soles of your feet together, then move your feet out so that the heel of each foot is about two feet away from your body. Place your hands on your knees, then slowly push them towards the ground. For more of a challenge, lean forward as much as you can while you perform this stretch. This exercise will stretch your upper legs, your thighs and your groins. This is very helpful is keeping your upper legs flexible and preventing muscle pulls and strains.