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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

These 13 Leg Stretches Will Prevent Pain and Injury During Exercise

These 13 Leg Stretches Will Prevent Pain and Injury During Exercise

Can leg stretches really make a difference? You are lucky enough just to fit in the exercise itself – and now you see that more should be added to your regimen? We will talk about how you can make the most of your time, and give you some key concepts for preventing pain and avoiding injury.

How much time should you spend stretching your legs, and how often should you stretch them? Having measured and fair answers to questions like this can save you plenty of pain, time, and frustration. We can help you find your starting place and make a plan to safely enjoy your lower body exercise routine through leg stretches.

The degree to which you will most benefit from stretching will depend on your chosen activity. If you wish to spend time doing aerial yoga, your body may benefit more from additional stretching than if you choose to enjoy a bike ride on a paved trail.[1]

Let’s talk about a few options as you consider what will work best for you. We will begin with a few tips on leg stretching and then introduce you to some specific stretches for the lower extremities.

Leg Stretching Tips for Starters

1. Learn to make the most of idle moments during the day

True, it is best to prepare your body for exercise just before – and after – your chosen activity. However, it is also beneficial to train your body to stay ready for activity throughout each day. This helps to remind muscles and joints that they can be called into action at any time. We will talk a bit more about the relationship between exercise and stretching in a moment.

Choose one stretch to complete as you:

  • Prepare your coffee or favorite tea
  • Enjoy watching a bird in a tree during lunch
  • Have a conversation at work
  • Wait in line (Why not make the most of that popcorn line at the cinema?)
  • Hang a picture
  • Tie your shoes

2. Use it to keep it

Remind yourself that the physical ability that you currently have will stay with you longer and better if you continue to employ its usage. Getting started or coming back from an injury can be frustrating. Be intentional about maintaining your health.

Knowing that you have already chosen to accomplish a goal makes getting past the first few attempts much easier. Then, just keep pressing on one stretch at a time until you have found several that you like and will do regularly.

3. Rest, relax, enjoy

Your body requires rest for proper rejuvenation. Listen to your body. Give it what it needs and the hard work you do with your new stretches and favorite exercises will go much further.

Think smarter, not harder. Know when to stop and enjoy the benefits of your hard work to help avoid injury.[2]

4 Alert your body

You need to give your body a fair ‘warning’ that you are ready to move your legs, core, and arms in a more commanding manner. These stretches have been selected with the idea that you may be seeking to overcome or avoid injury to one or both legs. As you recover, please feel free to add 15 to 30 seconds to the length of each stretch.

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A good warm-up regimen will include 10 to 15 minutes of slightly less strenuous activity than you plan to include in your actual exercise time. The goal is to alert your body that it is time to work and give it time to ‘wake up’ and respond prior to enjoying your more strenuous exercise activity.

Spending a few moments doing a less intense activity gives your heart time to start sending extra blood to your muscles. Muscles love to be ready for action through added nutrients in this manner.

If you plan to run 3 to 5 miles, walk or jog for about 0.5 to 1 mile prior to increasing your pace. If you plan to run 10 miles, proceed at a slower pace for about 2 miles.

5. Decide whether to stretch before or after exercise

It is pretty safe to say that at least some gentle stretching and warming up should be completed prior to any athletic endeavor.[3] Taking a few moments to alert your body that additional activity will soon happen is essential for protecting your muscles. How much stretching will depend on your chosen exercise and desired level of intensity.

Consider your activity when deciding whether or not you will benefit most from stretching before or after your exercise activity. Do you plan to perform in an event that will require you to be relaxed, flexible, and in control of your limbs? You may find that stretching before your event helps you perform at a higher level of ability.

On the other hand, you may wish to simply enjoy a run in the park? If so, you may find greater lasting benefit by performing most of your stretching routine after you run.

13 Leg Stretches for You to Choose

Fortunately, the many tiny portions of our legs overlap naturally with one another. This means that we almost cannot stretch only one tiny element of the body by itself.

We will almost certainly bring benefit to multiple portions of each limb with each individual action.[4] Think about it, can yo u stretch your feet without moving your toes? Thank you, mother nature! Let’s choose your favorite leg stretches:

1. Foot Overlap

Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Each leg should be slightly bent. Place your left leg over your right leg. Reach your left foot just beyond your right foot and gently pull both feet toward your body.

You should feel a slight pull from your feet all the way up through your right calf and left shin. Hold for a count of 10. Switch feet.

2. Ankle Circles

Make circles with your toes. To make it interesting, rotate one way five times, then the other way five times. You can also try alternating the rotational motion of each foot for some added practice in coordination.

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3. Shin Relax

This stretch is far more comfortable and effective while not wearing shoes. Stand up straight with your spine lengthened and your shoulders square with your feet and toes. Slowly swing your right leg behind you and point the toes on your right foot away from your body. The tops of your toes should rest comfortably on the floor.

Gently draw your body down a few inches as you bend your left knee. You should feel a slight stretch from the tops of your toes to just below your right knee. Hold for a count of 10. Switch legs.

4. Thirsty Calf

Sit with your legs straight in front of you. Gently point all of your toes away from your body. Hold for a count of 10. Bring your left knee up until the sole of your left foot is resting flat on the floor.

While sitting up straight, draw a towel, stretch band, or similar around your right foot ad bring your foot toward your body. You may also choose to lean forward at the waist and use your hands to pull your toes toward you.

Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

5. Quadricep Choice

Quad stretches should be chosen based on your level of comfort and whether or not you have any knee injuries. Whether or not you choose to rest on your stomach, side, or stand will depend on your preference.

Once in your chosen starting position, pull your right foot back gently to come as close to your right buttock as you can. You may choose to place a strap around your foot if you are unable to reach. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

6. Hamstrings Hex

Begin in a standing position with your shoulders and hips square. Turn your left foot so that your toes point to the left. Keep your left knee slightly bent and comfortable. Turn your upper body to the left.

Bending at the waist, slowly bring your arms down to meet as far down your leg as may be comfortable. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

7. Pigeon for Hips

Begin with both hands and both knees on the floor and your back raised (table top position). Your hips and shoulders should be square. Bring your left leg up under your torso as is comfortable. Be sure to bring the leg up far enough to feel a gentle pull, but not so far that it is painful. You will feel the stretch in your left hamstring and right hip area. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

If you have existing knee pain, consider this alternative. Stand with your shoulders and hips square. Place your left foot directly behind you. Bend slightly at both knees and bring your body straight down. Be sure that your right knee stays above your right ankle and does not pass your right toes. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

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    8. Glute Twist

    Sit on the floor with both legs straight and relaxed. Point your toes to the sky. Bring your left foot across your right leg onto the floor. Reach your right elbow to the left of your right knee. Face your upper body to the left as you bring your left hand to the floor.

    Keep your shoulders upright. Press against your left leg with your right elbow until you feel a gentle pull in your left glute. Hold for a count of 10. Switch sides.

      9. Leg Hug

      Lay flat on your back. Draw your left knee to your chest. Pull your left leg into your chest with both arms. Hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs.

      10. Leaning Lunge Twist

      Start in a lunge position with your right leg behind you. Take your right hand to the floor even with your left foot. Raise your left arm straight up. Look up to your fingertips.

      Be sure to keep your left knee above your left ankle and not over your toes. Breathe out as you count to 10. Switch sides. You should feel this in your hips, quads, calves, shins, and right foot.

        11. Changing Butterfly

        Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together. You will do this stretch in three forms.

        Begin with your feet as close to you as is comfortable. Lean forward at the waist to feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold for a count of 10. Next, move your feet away from your body about three to five inches. Lean forward again and hold for 10 seconds.

        Then, push your feet forward another three to five inches. Your legs should be close to straight but still bent at the knees with the soles of your feet still touching. Lean forward at the waist again and hold for 10 seconds. Breath out slowly each time as you count.

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        12. Changing Forward Bend

        Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart. Slightly bend both knees. Reach your arms toward your feet as you bend at the waist. Hold for a count of 10.

        Next, do the same stretch with your legs about 12 to 18 inches apart. Then, repeat the stretch again with your feet next to each other.

        13. Toes to Hip

        Stand (or sit) and place your right leg slightly behind you. Begin with just your right toes on the floor (left foot still planted). Roll the arch of your right foot down to eventually have your entire foot on the floor behind you. As your right heel reaches the floor, lean back slightly to feel the stretch in your upper leg. Do this three to five times and switch sides.

        A note on knees: Isolating your knees for stretching is a bit less than feasible. As a joint located in the middle portion of the leg, the knee will most efficiently be stretched as you successfully stretch the other portions.

        However, keep in mind that each stretch should be done without pressing or forcing your knee over your toes or into any position that feels strained. Notice how you can feel each of these stretches reach through the connections in each knee.

          The Bottom Line

          Preventing pain and injury to your legs while enjoying your favorite exercise does not have to be painful, enduring, or difficult. If you employ these options with regularity, the powerful tools that carry help to mobilize the rest of your body will thank you!

          Choose a few favorites from this list and remember to be gentle with your muscles and tendons as you complete each stretch. Never force anything or complete stretches in a jerky or forced manner.

          Finding a few favorite leg stretches can go a long way in providing an incentive for keeping limbs ready and equipped for your daily adventures!

          If you appreciated these leg stretching tips, you may love these 10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day!

          Featured photo credit: i yunmai via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Competitor Running: Using Yoga For Injury Prevention and Recovery
          [2] Better Health Chiropractic: Should I Exercise If I Have An Injury?
          [3] NHS: Do I need to stretch before exercising?
          [4] The Active Times: 7 Benefits of Stretching

          More by this author

          Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

          Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles โ€“ without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

          17 Morning Stretches That Will Jumpstart Your Body and Mind 12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain These 13 Leg Stretches Will Prevent Pain and Injury During Exercise 7 Best Lower Back Stretches for Relieving Pain Simple Hacks on How to Relieve Neck Pain Fast (and Naturally)

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          Last Updated on April 19, 2021

          15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

          15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

          Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

          Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

          For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

          Benefits of Static Stretches

          Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

          Improved Flexibility

          If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

          Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

          Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

          Prevent Injuries

          If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

          Think of it this way:

          When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

          Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

          Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

          For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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          However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

          Improvement in Recovery

          If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

          Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

          Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

          Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

          Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

          • Improved relaxation
          • Increased movement efficiency
          • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
          • Reduction in muscle tension
          • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
          • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
          • Relief from cramping

          15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

          Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

          1. Neck Stretch

            While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

            Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

            2. Chest Stretch

              Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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              3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

              Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

                Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

                4. Triceps Static Stretch

                  Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

                  Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

                  5. Biceps Stretch

                  Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

                    Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                    6. Wrist Stretch

                    11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

                      While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

                      7. Side Stretch

                        Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                        The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                        8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                          Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                          9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                          Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                            Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                            Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                            10. Knees to Chest

                            Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                              Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                              11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                              How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                                Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                                12. Figure 4 Stretch

                                How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                                  Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                                  13. Standing Quad Stretch

                                    Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                                    Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                                    14. Hamstring Stretch

                                      Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                                      Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                                      15. Calf Stretch

                                        Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                        Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                        Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                        Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                        When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                        Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                        This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                        That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                        The Bottom Line

                                        Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                        Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                        More Tips on Stretching

                                        Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

                                        Reference

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