***If you have any health conditions or previous or current injuries, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, stretching is extremely important but is often overlooked. In this post, I will go over several different stretches you can do for your lower body and give you guidelines on when and how to do them.
When should I stretch?
You should always stretch the muscles you used after a workout. Stretching after you exercise helps your body to break up lactic acid which reduces soreness, allows room for more muscle growth, and helps to loosen up the muscles to keep them from getting tight. Stretching after a workout also improves your range of motion, reducing your risk of injury and helping your body perform its best.
You can also stretch the muscles you’re going to use before the workout itself but after a warm-up of at least three minutes. If you have a health condition, it is recommended to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before you exercise or stretch. Stretching before a warm-up allows your body and working muscles to have a greater range of motion.
How long should I stretch for?
You should stretch your muscles for 15 to 60 seconds after you exercise. It takes about 10 seconds for the body to respond to the stretch, so you want to allow more time to get a really good stretch. I always have my clients stretch for at least 30 seconds after a workout to reap the benefits. Before a workout, I typically have them do shorter stretches for about 10 to 15 seconds.
You can do multiple rounds of stretches, especially if you have an extra tight muscle.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
For the seated hamstring stretch, you can do both legs or one at a time. Play around with it and see which one you like more.
If you have lower back pain or cannot get on the floor, the chair hamstring stretch is most likely the best stretch for you. Keep your right leg bent with your foot flat on the ground. Extend your left leg straight out with your heel on the ground and toes lifted. Reach for your left toes and hold. Switch sides.
For the single hamstring stretch: Bend your left knee and tuck the foot into your right inner thigh. Keep the right leg long and straight as you reach your fingers as close to your toes as possible (without hurting yourself). Hold the stretch and then switch legs.
The double hamstring stretch is the same idea, only both legs are extended out in front of you and you are reaching both hands towards your toes.
You can also use a strap to assist you in this stretch by wrapping the strap around one or both feet, grasping the strap with both hands and pulling your torso towards your foot (or feet).
Standing Hamstring Stretch
For the second hamstring stretch, you can stand on one leg and extend the other leg onto a raised surface such as a chair or table. Reach your hand towards your toes to get a nice stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold and repeat on the opposite leg.
Hamstring and Calf Stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Wrap a strap, dog leash, or towel around the bottom of your left foot, grasp it with two hands, and lean back until you are lying on the ground with your left leg in the air. Flex your left foot and bend your knees as much as you have to as you hold this pose. Switch to the right side.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
For the first quadricep stretch that I have shown here, you are going to come down to the floor on your knees. Step your left foot forward so that it is below the knee. Lean into your bent knee to get a nice stretch at the top of your opposite thigh. This stretch is especially important for people who spend a lot of their day sitting because it helps to stretch the top of the hip flexors which are chronically tight in sedentary people, those with desk jobs, and those who spend a lot of time driving. Hold the stretch and then switch to the other side.
Standing Quad Stretch
For this quadricep stretch, hold onto a chair or a wall if you need to. Bend your right knee and grab the foot, bringing it towards your buttocks. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh as you hold this pose. Repeat with the left side.
For a good glute stretch, take your right foot and place it on the top of your left thigh as you squat down. You should feel a stretch in the back of the right side of your buttocks as you hold the pose. Repeat on the left side.
Calf Stretch #1
Place both forearms on the wall with your right foot under your arms. Extend the left leg behind you, grounding your left heel into the floor. Lean into the wall so you feel a nice stretch in the back of your left calf before switching sides.
Calf Stretch #2
Place the ball and toes of your right foot up against the wall with your heel on the ground. Lean into the wall as you feel a stretch in the back of the right calf. Hold and repeat on the left side.
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See you next time!