You develop flexibility of your leg muscles just as you would train to improve your muscular tone. A regular program of stretching exercises will improve the flexibility of your leg muscles and the range of motion about your hip, knee and ankle joints. Furthermore, just as you will lose muscle tone when you stop resistance training, so too will you lose your flexibility if you stop stretching. The best time to stretch is after an aerobic exercise session when your muscles, tendons and ligaments are most plastic or can better lengthen.
Begin your stretching routine with an exercise for your calves, which are muscles that are more prone to becoming very tight especially if you wear high heels or run on your toes.
Stand on the first step of a staircase or use the end of the aerobic step bench or a sidewalk. Stand near an immovable object to steady yourself if you do not have good balance.
Place the ball of your right foot at the edge of the step and the entire leg of your other foot on the surface of the step. Lower the heel of your right foot as far as possible, stretching your calves to improve the range of motion around your ankle. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch legs; complete four repetitions per calf.
Quadriceps and Hip Flexors
Hold an immovable object and balance yourself on your left foot. Keep your left knee slightly bent to reduce strain on your joint.
Bend your right knee and then grab the toes of your right foot, pulling your right heel as close to your buttocks as possible; keep your knees close together.
Push your pelvis forward, stretching the hip flexors on the right side of your hip as well as your right quadriceps muscle. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch legs. Complete four repetitions per hip and thigh.
Hamstrings and Gluteals
Stand near an immovable object in which you can rest your heel as long as the object is near the level of your hip joints.
Balance on your left leg then raise your right leg to rest your right heel on the immovable object; hold another immovable object for better stability.
Lean your trunk as far forward as you can, keeping your right leg as straight as possible without locking your right knee to stretch your hamstrings and glutes. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch legs. Complete four repetitions per leg.
- ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal; You Asked For It: Question Authority: Is Stretching Worthwhile; David Nieman, Dr.P.H.
- Strength and Conditioning Journal; Stretching: Acute and Chronic? The Potential Consequences; Mike Stone, Ph.D., et al