Flexibility exercises, especially those that target the legs, offer many health benefits. They can help relieve back pain, improve your balance and prevent injuries when working out or doing your daily tasks.
Having flexible muscles allows your joints to achieve their full range of motion, thus letting you move and function more efficiently, without straining or injuring the body. If you’re an athlete, then increasing your leg flexibility can greatly enhance your abilities as well as reduce your chances of getting leg cramps.
However, before doing any hamstring or leg muscle stretches, do some calisthenics or jog around a bit to warm up your muscles. Muscles that are not properly warmed up are at a higher risk of injury when forced to stretch cold.
Take it easy at first. You won’t acquire the range of flexibility you want overnight. Like most things that are fitness related, flexibility takes time and patience. Just keep working on increasing your range of motion, and in time you’ll be as flexible as a top athlete.
Females are generally more flexible than males, and some individuals are simply more flexible than others. So if you belong to the less flexible camp it may take you longer to increase your range of movement, but you’ll get there if you train regularly and with purpose.
To help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle, here are five essential leg flexibility exercises for improving your range of motion and minimizing the risk of injury.
1. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstrings are the main muscles you use when engaging in sports such as football, basketball or those that involve a lot of running. This muscle group is located along the back of your thigh. The hamstrings are responsible for the most basic movement of your upper legs and even control the movement of your hips. That’s why they’re so important for waking, running and even dancing.
When doing hamstring stretches it will also stretch the muscles along your calves, which is a good thing since this is another important muscle group responsible for balance and explosive speed.
- To stretch your hamstring and calf muscles start by placing one foot forward.
- Bend your body forward from the waist toward the extended foot
- Keep the knee of the rear leg bent
- Gently move the ankle of your front foot so that your toes are pointed upward as well as towards you.
- Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds and then do the same for the other leg.
Another variant of the hamstring stretch is the popular toe touch. To perform this stretch, simply stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Now slowly reach down to touch your toes with your fingertips while keeping your knees straight all the time.
If you can’t touch your toes at this time, don’t force it. Just reach as far as you can without bending your knees and feel that stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
2. Bench Hip Flexor Stretch
This exercise benefits your quadriceps and leg flexor muscles.
To perform the exercise, you need to;
Place a knee-high bench or chair in behind you.
Extend one leg backwards with your toes pointed towards the rear and rest your foot on the chair.
Gradually bring your knee down towards the floor while keeping the other foot squarely planted in front of you. Keep your back straight.
You can increase the intensity of the stretch by leaning backward and twisting your torso a little bit in the general direction of the side of the front foot.
Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and then do the same for the other leg.
3. Upper Thigh Stretch
Here’s another exercise that benefits the quadriceps, or the muscle group in your upper thigh.
This stretch can be done after bench hip flexor stretch:
- Find a table, chair, sturdy wall, door knob or anything that you can grab for support. Place your left hand on the table or chair for support, placing a hand on the wall for balance.
- With your right hand, grab the right foot and bring it rearward, all the while keeping your knees together.
- At this point the front of the thigh being stretched
- Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds
- Repeat with the other leg
4. Inner Thigh Stretch
Stretching the inner thigh muscles helps with activities associated with doing splits, high kicks and long jumps. This will not only increase your legs’ range of motion but also help to stabilize and tone the muscles.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Stand with your feet two shoulder widths apart
- Shift your weight by lowering your right knee a little.
- You should feel your inner thigh stretching at this point.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then do the other leg as well
5. Adductor Lunging Stretch
With the lunging stretch, you gain a tremendous amount of control with regard to how gently or intensely you want to stretch your adductor muscles.
The best part about this exercise is that it’s simple enough for anyone to perform:
- The starting point is a crawling position with your arms and knees evenly supporting the weight of your body.
- With a straight knee, move your right leg outward
- Point your toes of your right foot to the front and place your foot squarely on the floor
- Extend your right hand towards your right foot.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and then do the other side.
These five essential leg stretches can go a long way toward helping you prevent injuries, especially if you’re into a sport that involves a lot of leg movements, like running, martial arts, gymnastics or football.
Before performing any of these exercises, make sure that you are properly warmed up, as stretches can be very hard on cold muscles. If you feel any type of discomfort while performing these exercises, stop immediately. Go easy on it and give your body time to adjust.
A leg massage after a workout will soothe fatigue and leg pains, improve leg circulation and ensure your muscles will heal properly. If you have no access to a professional massage therapist, the Verseo Air Compression Leg Massager is your next best option. The device is portable, cordless, lightweight and easy to operate.
The Air compression leg massager offers quick relief from leg cramps and pains. It also offers therapeutic benefit for anyone with a sedentary lifestyle, helping them to improve blood circulation in the legs and calves.
It’s a great, yet very affordable, investment for your health and wellbeing.