Feeling a little stiff lately? Whether it’s feeling sore after a challenging leg workout or difficulty doing everyday activities as we age, no one should overlook the benefits of leg stretches! Not only do they prevent stiffness, they also improve flexibility. Our legs are made up of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. All of which get a workout on a daily basis and for those who work out regularly, they get used a lot!
When these muscles and joints become stiff and tight, you’ll experience what’s called a decrease in flexibility. When this happens, what used to be an easy, everyday task like tying shoelaces, now becomes more challenging and difficult.
To improve flexibility and get back to doing the activities you enjoy the most, try these 10 leg stretches…
Seated Hamstring Stretch
While seated on the ground, straighten out on leg and slowly lower your chest towards this leg. Attempt to reach your toes. This stretch should be felt behind the leg that is straight out in front of you.
Lunging Calf Stretch
To do this stretch, stand against a wall, then step back with one leg. Lunge towards the wall with the other leg. This stretch should be felt in your calf muscles, in the leg that is behind you.
Standing Quads Stretch
If you’re feeling well balanced, do this stretch free standing. For those that might be a little more wobbly, hold onto something. Stand on one foot, then slowly bend your opposite knee and grab your foot behind you. The goal is to feel a gentle stretch on the front of your thigh.
Seated Butterfly Stretch
Sitting on the ground, bend your knees outwards so that your feet come together and touch. Grab onto your feet and slowly bring your chest forward and towards the ground.
You’re completing this stretch properly if you start to feel a gentle pull in your inner thigh muscles on both legs.
You can do this stretch in standing or sitting. With one foot in the air you want to make circles in the air with your foot by rolling your ankle. This is a great stretch to improve the flexibility on your ankles.
You can perform these ankle rolls sitting at your desk at work, in the passenger seat of the car on road trips, sitting in an aeroplane, and any other time that you feel your ankles are stiffening up.
By taking a step outwards to the side, one leg should be perfectly straight. Lower slowly into the pose so that you feel a stretch in your inner thigh.
Hold for around 30 seconds and then slowly come out of the stretch and perform on the opposite side.
This is the perfect stretch for those of you who feel a lot of stiffness you’re your glutes (buttocks). When performing the pigeon pose, you don’t want to push into pain. Lower until you feel a gentle stretch, hold and then switch sides. (Check out some more Yoga Poses For a Full Body Stretch).
A favourite of many, the glute stretch is a great pose to perform after a long day of sitting in an office chair or car seat. To perform this stretch, start by lying on your back. Cross one foot over the opposite knee and then slowly pull that knee into your chest to feel a gentle pull in your glute muscle.
Hip Flexor Lunge
This classic pose is another great one for people who spend long periods of their day sitting. Break up your work day by getting down on the floor and stretching out your hip flexors. Your lower back and hips will thank you later!
If you’re looking to open and loosen up your hips, this is the stretch for you! Kneeling on your hands and knees, move your feet further out to the sides than what would feel natural. But don’t do anything that hurts!
Once in this position, slowly sit back onto your heels or until you feel a stretch in your hip joint. Go nice and slow with this one to warm up the hips before jumping right into it.
As a physiotherapist, my advice for anyone who’s looking to improve their lower body flexibility, is to commit to completely these stretching for 5-10 minutes every day. You’re not going to see massive improvements overnight, but if you’re able to stay consistent for a couple weeks, you’ll start to notice your legs become more supple and easier to move during the day.
When you lower into any of the positions above, it’s important to remember that you’re only after a gentle pulling feeling in the muscle. If you’re feeling pain, you’re pushing too hard and need to back off a bit. Be kind to your body, commit to improving your flexibility every day and reaps the benefits for years to come.