Stretch out your quads and hamstrings before any workout involving your legs to prevent injuries and prep your joints to move. It's also a good idea to stretch throughout the day to make your legs more flexible. A lot of lower body exercises use a big range of motion with either one or both of your legs. Even something simple, such as running, requires flexibility.
The quadriceps and hamstrings are long, strong muscles. They can get really tight, especially if you use them a lot. Traditional static stretches work really well for loosening up these muscles, especially if you stretch after a workout or any point during the day.
For static stretches, you should hold the stretch at a point where it's uncomfortable but not painful. Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds to make your muscle more flexible. Make sure that you stretch each leg equally.
Standing Foot Grab
This static stretch for your quads is done standing but you can use a wall to brace yourself if you have trouble balancing.
Ho- to: Stand in front of a wall or another stable surface that can hold your weight. Stabilize yourself with one hand on the wall. Whatever leg is opposite your bracing hand, bend it and bring your foot toward your butt. With your free hand, lift your foot up toward your butt and grab the front of your shin. Pull it in toward your butt. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
The toe touch is one of the most well-known hamstring stretches and one of the most commonly used tests for flexibility.
How-to: Stand tall with your feet close together. Bend forward at the waist, stick your butt back and keep your weight on your heels. Reach down with your hands as low as possible. Keep going until your muscles are too tight to continue. Hold the stretch and breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth, slowly sinking farther down, for 30 seconds.
Bench Hip Flexor Stretch
Stretch your hip flexors and quadriceps one leg at a time with this stretch.
How-to: Stand in front of a bench or chair, facing away from it. Put a soft pad in front of it. Take a step away and lift your back leg, laying your back foot on top of the chair or bench. Lower yourself down so that your back knee rests on the pad. Plant your front foot in front of you so that your knee is at a 90-degree angle.
Keep a tall posture with your torso and lean back slightly to increase the stretch on your back leg. You can also raise your arms up overhead to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds on each leg.
The name of this stretch is from the position that hurdlers have to get into, where they extend one leg straight forward and demonstrate great hamstring flexibility.
How-to: Sit on the ground with one leg straight in front of you and one leg bent. Take the foot of your bent leg and press the bottom against the inside of your straight leg's knee. Lean toward the foot of your straight leg and reach with both hands until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Side-Lying Quad Stretch
Slightly more comfortable than the standing quad stretch, this takes balance out of the equation.
How-to: Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Bend your top leg and grab the front of your shin with your top arm. Pull your foot in, trying to get your heel to touch your butt. You can drive your top knee back behind you to increase the stretch.
Banded Hamstring Stretch
Instead of using a partner to help you with this hamstring stretch, use a resistance band.
How -o: Sit on the ground and put one end of a resistance band around one of your feet. Hold the resistance band with both hands and lie flat on your back with both legs straight in front of you. Pull up the leg with the resistance band, keeping your knee straight. Raise it until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
Keep pulling until it feels uncomfortable, then push your leg back down to the ground. Repeat five times and then switch legs.
Lateral Hamstring Stretch
Your hamstrings are made up of four different muscles. Focus on stretching the outer muscles with this exercise.
How-to: Prop one leg up on a bench or chair. It should be between knee and waist-high. Keep your raised leg straight and face toward it with your body. Take your opposite hand and reach across your body, trying to touch the toes of your raised leg. Bring your hand back and return to the start position, then reach out and touch your toes again. Repeat 10 times and then switch legs.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Effect of Acute Static Stretch on Maximal Muscle Performance: A Systematic Review
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Efficacy of Static Stretching and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretch on Hamstrings Length After a Single Session
- Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance