Leg Stretches And Why Everyone Should Do Them
Anybody who wishes to live a healthy lifestyle knows that part of that lifestyle involves exercise. When we participate in exercise, such as running, we unwittingly place our legs under allot of stress. Our legs are the pillars that keep us upright all day so it is important that we look after them. Everyone should include leg stretches into their exercise routine. We should also ensure that when we do our leg stretches that we also take a balanced approach and stretch all the major muscle regions in our legs. I see many people who take the time to do hamstring stretches and quad stretches but then don’t continue on with things like calf stretches.
What’s so Important about leg stretches?
When we exercise not only are our legs doing allot of work but they also have the responsibility of carrying our weight. When we carry out leg stretches before a workout we generate heat in our legs. This heat helps to loosen our muscles and joints giving us added mobility. It also increases blood flow to our legs. Having added mobility and blood flow in our legs means that we can actually train for longer periods of time and not get tired as quickly. It will also shorten our recovery period.
What is the danger of not doing leg stretches?
Not implementing a leg stretching regime before workouts will greatly increase your chances of injury and strain. Also, when we don’t stretch, our muscles become more constrained over time and we begin to lose flexibility. Physiotherapist in some cases may include stretching into their injury rehabilitation treatments. So its is better to get into the habit of stretching before every workout because if you get injured you may find yourself having to crank out the soleus stretches anyway.
5 Key leg muscles to Stretch and why
1) Hamstring Stretches
When doing hamstring stretches we must first consider that our hamstrings are exceptionally strong and important muscles. There are basically 3 large muscles in the back of your legs that connect into your buttocks that make up your hamstrings. Due to their location in relation to the pelvic bones having tight hamstrings can lead to back pain issues. This can be exaggerated if we strain our hamstrings during exercise as a result of, not stretching. There are various ways to conduct hamstring stretches. A common way is to lie on your back, bend your leg at the knee and then gently tug the knee towards your chest. You can also sit with your legs in a V shape then gently, whilst holding an ankle, press your torso towards your leg so as your head meets your knee.
Your quadriceps are made up of 4 muscles. These muscles are important as they are responsible for most of the movement around you knees and your hips. The quadriceps are also the muscles that provide you with the most of your stability. It is important to carry out quad stretches as the quadriceps are notorious for cramping up during exercise when not properly stretched. An easy way to do quad stretches involves you lying on one side of your body. Then grab the ankle of the leg that is not touching the ground with its corresponding hand from behind you. Your ankle should now be near your buttocks. Then gently push your ankle with your hand towards your buttocks to stretch the quads.
Our calf muscles are kind of our agility muscles. They are what enables us to move on the balls of our feet and are very important when it comes to engaging in a sport. The calf muscles are also intrinsically connected to both our Hamstrings and Quadriceps. Injuries to our calf muscles can have a flow on effect to our upper legs and our lower backs. So it is important to undertake calf stretches before workouts to ensure we are getting fluid movement in our upper legs and our ankles. Calf stretches can be rather simple to do. Calf stretches can be done by placing one foot in front of the other with your hands against a wall. Then use the leg that is most closest to the wall to bear all your weight and bend. Keep the leg at the back straight and as you bend you will feel the stretch in the straight leg.
4) Soleus Stretches
The Soleus is a rather hidden muscle and is part of the overall calf area. The Soleus often does not get much attention, but it is an extremely important muscle to stretch. It lies deep in the lower leg from the back of the knee to just above the heel. It is very important that we make sure we are doing our soleus stretches because the soleus plays a major function in the act of running. Soleus stretches can be done by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Then wrap a towel around the ball of a foot and with both hands pull the foot gently towards you. You should feel the stretch at back of your lower leg.
5) Gluteal Stretches
There a three muscles in the gluteal that make up the buttocks. Not many people think of carrying out gluteal stretches, but this can prove to be a dangerous mistake. The gluteus has a very important role to play with our legs. In fact, the gluteus is what enables most of the movement of our thighs. The gluteus helps us sit and stand, walk up stairs, and run. So gluteal stretches are just as important if not more important that stretching the rest of the leg. Doing gluteal stretches can be tricky. A common method involves sitting down, bending one knee, and placing the foot of the bent leg over to the other side of the other legs knee.
Many people don’t do enough leg stretches or none at all. There are many reasons for this that all revolve around the fact that leg stretches are boring, leg stretches hurt, and leg stretches are time-consuming. When we consider the role legs play, not only during exercise, but also during general activities, avoiding leg stretches is not the best idea.
The importance of stretching has been around for hundreds of years. The practice of Yoga began in ancient India almost six hundred years ago. This is because not only do stretches assist in injury prevention and recovery but stretching also has the added effect of making us feel loose and free. The improved circulation of the blood ads to mental clarity. So stretching assists the body and the mind. Remember, our legs are what keep us up, look after them and you will stay up.