Stair climbing provides a whole-body aerobic and anaerobic workout that can help you burn calories, build muscle and improve your overall fitness. Even short bouts of stair climbing throughout the day can dramatically improve your fitness level, according to the American Council on Exercise. Climbing stairs is also strenuous on your legs, hips and buttocks, so it's imperative to prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout by stretching to prevent injury and increase flexibility. Do an easy 5- to 10-minute cardio warmup, such as walking, before you stretch.
The calf muscle runs along the back of your leg between your knee and your heel. To stretch your calf muscles, stand facing a wall, about 12 inches to 18 inches from the wall. Place the palms of your hands on the wall about shoulder height. Step toward the wall with one foot. Keep the back foot planted firmly on the floor. Slowly lean toward the wall. Keep your heels on the floor. Lean forward until you feel the stretch in the calf of the back foot. Return to a standing position and then repeat with the other leg.
The hamstring muscles are on the back of your upper leg between your knee and your hip. To stretch the hamstring muscles, lie on the floor on your back near a corner or a door. Position your buttocks about 12 inches from the wall. To stretch your right leg, position your body so that your left leg is in the open doorway or to the left of the wall corner. Raise your right leg straight up and place your heel against the wall. Stretch your left leg through the doorway on the floor to your left. Stretch your right hamstring by gently straightening your leg. Stretch the hamstring muscle by moving your buttocks closer to the wall. Repeat the exercise on the other side by moving to the other side of the doorway or corner. You can also stretch your hamstring muscles by sitting on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of your body and the other leg bent at the knee and turned inward. Sit up straight and slowly bend forward until you feel the stretch in the muscle on the back of your outstretched leg. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat the stretch with the other leg.
The quadriceps muscles are on the front of the thigh between the hip and the knee. Stretch the quadriceps by standing beside a sturdy chair or piece of exercise equipment. Place your hand on the chair or equipment for balance. To stretch your right quadriceps, hold onto a chair with your left hand and keep your left foot planted firmly on the floor. Bend your right knee and grasp your ankle with your right hand. Pull the heel upward and toward your buttocks until you feel the muscles in the front of your thigh begin to stretch. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds to 30 seconds and then slowly lower your leg back to the floor. Turn and hold the chair with your right hand and repeat the stretch with your left leg. You can also stretch your quadriceps by lying on your stomach on the floor. Stretch your legs out behind your body. Bend your left knee and grasp your left ankle with your left hand. Pull your heel toward your buttocks until you feel the muscle in the front of your thigh stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
The gluteal muscles are your buttocks. Stretch the gluteals by lying on your back with your knees bent. Keep your feet planted flat on the floor. Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Try to keep your back flat on the floor. Place your hands around the back of your right thigh, and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Lower your right foot to the ground, then repeat the stretch with your right leg crossed over your left knee.
Hip Flexor Stretches
The hip flexor muscles, located below the hip bones in the upper thighs, help you to bend your body at the waist and to lift your knees when walking and climbing. Stretch the hip flexors by kneeling on a towel or exercise mat on your right knee. Place your left foot on the floor in front of your right knee. Place your hands on your hips and slowly lean forward. Lean forward until you feel the muscles of your thigh stretching. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch on the other side.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.