Leg Stretches

Image of the hip rotation stretch.
The hip rotation stretch helps to keep your hips rotating and moving freely.. Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Many people suffer from symptoms of tight leg muscles. A common cause of leg tightness is related to the amount of time we spend sitting during the work day. As our knees are bent in this position, the muscles that flex the knee joint become used to being in this shortened position.

Tight leg muscles can predispose one to injury during daily and recreational activities as well as contribute to the development of back pain.

To prevent this, it is important to perform leg stretching exercises to loosen tight muscles.

Performing daily leg stretches is one activity that should be incorporated into your daily routine. The benefits of stretching are many and have been proven through various studies over time. Review the following leg stretches below and add them to your daily stretching regimen:

  • Groin Stretches: Gentle stretching of the inner muscles of the thigh can help prevent groin strains. Groin strains occurs when the muscles of the inner thighs are stretched beyond their normal length. This results in tears within the muscle that cause pain and inflammation.
  • Quadricep Stretches: The quadriceps are four muscles located in the anterior thigh. This muscle group acts to extend the leg while straightening the knee. Running and biking, as well as daily activities, can result in tight quadricep muscles.
  • Knee Stretches: The knee is the most commonly injured joint in all age groups. It is especially susceptible to damage during athletic activities and exercise. However, stretching and strengthening the muscles and tendons of the knee joint can help reduce injury.
  • Calf Stretches: When calf muscles become tight, the risk of muscle or Achille's tendon tears and injury increases. For this reason, it is important to stretch tight calf muscles.
  • Easy Stretches with a Towel: You can do quite a few exercises with items you find around the house. Performing stretches with a towel can help you improve your flexibility and keep your muscles feeling great.

    To get the most out of your lower extremity stretching routine, it may be a good idea to warm up for a few minutes before stretching. Ride a bike, go for a walk, or jog in place for 5 minutes prior to stretching.

    While stretching, hold each position for about 20 to 30 seconds to maximize your flexibility. Some experts recommend holding stretches for up to 60 seconds.

    Over the years, conventional wisdom has said that you should hold each stretch in a static position for avoid injury. Recent research indicates that dynamic stretching can hold some benefit of improved athletic performance with no increase in injury risk. It seems it would be a good idea to mix things up a bit. Sometimes perform relaxing static stretches and other times perform dynamic, plyometric stretches.

    Maintaining adequate flexibility in your lower extremity muscles can help you move better and feel better. Check in with your physical therapist to learn which stretching exercises are best for you.

    Edited by Brett Sears, PT, About.com Physical Therapy Expert.

    Sources: American Family Physician, Vol. 71/No. 8, Iliotibial Band Syndrome.
    American Family Physician, Vol. 60/No. 3, Flexibility Exercise Can Decrease Overuse Leg Injuries.
    Behm,D and Chaouachi, A. A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 111(11). March, 2011.

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