Stretching the leg muscles everyday is a smart move. In fact, stretching on a regular basis could even make you stronger, more flexible and help you to improve your performance when doing other activities, according to researchers at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Plus, no equipment is required to stretch -- just a few minutes a day and a place to "stretch out."
Stretching the Hips
The hip flexor muscles should be included in your lower-body stretching routine. They’re located at the very top of the upper thighs, just under the hip bones. Get on the floor in a kneeling position; use a mat or cushion to protect your kneecaps. Bend your left leg up in front of you, as if you were about to stand up, and put your left hand on your upper thigh to keep it stable. To avoid bending at the waist, hold onto your right hip with your right hand and keep your torso upright. Now lean slightly forward as you shift your weight onto your front leg. When you feel the stretch in your thigh, hold it for 30 seconds. Relax and switch legs.
Stretching the Quads
The quadriceps comprise the muscles on the front of the thighs, between the pelvis and the knee. Stand next to a wall or near something solid and steady that you can hold onto for support. Bend your left knee and reach behind to grab hold of your ankle. Now gently pull your ankle upward. Stop when you feel the stretch across your quads. Keep your abs tight and your knees together and hold for 30 seconds. Relax and switch legs.
Stretching the Hams
The hamstrings are the muscles on the backs of the thighs, between the buttocks and knees. To stretch the hamstrings one at a time, lie down with your back flat against the floor and your right knee bent in a 90-degree angle. Now gently raise your left leg up off the floor. Hold onto the back of your knee and keep it as straight as you can as you pull your leg toward your chest. Stop when you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, keeping your left hip against the floor as you hold the position. Relax and switch legs.
Stretching the Calves
The calf muscles are located at the back and sides of the lower leg, between the foot and knee. To stretch the calves, stand next to a wall or near something solid and steady that you can lean into for support. Place your hands on the wall and put one leg in front of the other. Bend your front leg slightly at the knee and keep the leg behind you completely straight, with your heel flat on the ground. You should feel the pull in your calf muscle. Hold it for 30 seconds while keeping your back straight, hips forward and feet straight ahead. Relax, and switch legs
Valerie Jill Dimond has been a writer and editor since 1997, specializing in health and wellness. She has worked with a variety of newspapers, magazines and other publications, including the "Journal of Children and Poverty," "Hudson Valley Magazine," the "Sarasota Herald-Tribune" and "Poughkeepsie Journal." Dimond holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from SUNY New Paltz.