The muscles in your legs are amongst the strongest in your body. But strong muscles often mean short muscles; and short muscles are at risk for tears and injuries. Tight leg muscles can also put strain on your lower back. Perform stretching exercises for your calves, hamstrings and calves on a regular basis to increase flexibility in your legs.
Supine Hamstring Stretch
To perform the supine hamstring stretch, you need a hand towel or 4-foot long piece of rope. Sit on the floor and loop your towel around your left foot. Lie back on the floor and extend your left foot up towards the ceiling while keeping your right foot on the floor. Gently pull your left leg towards you by pulling on the towel. Keep your shoulders relaxed as you try to increase the stretch on your hamstring muscles. Once you have held the stretched position for the desired duration, slowly return your left leg to the floor and perform the exercise on your other side.
Supine Inner Thigh Stretch
The supine inner thigh stretch uses gravity to gently increase your flexibility. Sit sideways onto a wall with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Lie back onto the floor and simultaneously swing your legs up so that they are resting against the wall and your body is perpendicular to the wall. From this position, slide your feet out and down to create a V shape with your legs. Relax your inner thighs and allow your legs to spread further apart. Hold this position for the desired duration before rolling both legs to one side and slowly standing up.
Prone Quadriceps Stretch
To stretch your quadriceps -- the muscles on the front of your thigh -- lie on your stomach with your legs straight and your hands beneath your forehead. Bend your left leg and reach back with your left hand to grasp your foot. Gently pull your foot in towards your butt. Only pull your foot as close to your butt as your knee health allows. Hold this position for the desired duration and then carefully swap legs.
Standing Calf Stretch
The standing calf stretch uses gravity to increase the flexibility in your lower leg muscles. Stand on the edge of a step so that the balls of your feet are on the step and your heels are in free space. Use your arms for balance and hold on to a nearby wall or other support. Slowly lower your heels as far below the edge of the step as possible. Try to relax and gradually increase the depth of the stretch. Hold for the desired duration and then carefully dismount the step.
Increasing flexibility requires that you hold your stretches for extended periods of time. This means that you must select exercises that allow you to adopt a stretched position and maintain it without undue stress or discomfort. To improve your flexibility, you should hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds, but be prepared to hold positions for up to three minutes to maximally develop your leg flexibility. Always warm up before stretching to minimize your risk of injury.
- Stretching Anatomy; Arnold G. Nelson, Jouko Kokkonen, and Jason M. McAlexander
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Illustrated; Barbara Templeton and Jamie Templeton