The quadriceps and hamstrings, often called the quads and hams, are the large muscle groups located at the front and back of the thigh, respectively. The quads function as extensors of the knee, the hamstrings as flexors of the knee. The hamstrings, except the biceps femoris short head muscle of the group, also function as extensors of the hip. Thus, to stretch the quads, you have to perform knee-flexing stretches, and to stretch the hamstrings, you have to do knee-extending or hip-flexing stretches. Do three to five sets per stretch, and hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, with each set followed by a 30- to 45-second rest period.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Stand with your body upright next to a wall and with the left side of your body facing the wall.
Place your left hand on the wall for support.
Flex your right knee until your heel is close to your right buttocks region.
Grasp the top of your right foot with your right hand.
Maintain the stretched position for 15 to 30 seconds, and then return your right foot to the floor. Turn your body so your right side is facing the wall, and repeat the stretch with your left leg.
Seated Toe Touches
Sit on the floor with your torso upright.
Extend your legs and position your feet close together on the floor.
Flex at the waist as far forward as you comfortably can.
Extend your arms forward and try to touch your toes.
Maintain the stretched position for 15 to 30 seconds, take a 30- to 45-second rest period and repeat the stretch.
- When doing the standing quadriceps stretch, you do not have to take a 30- to 45-second break when alternating the stretch between the right and left legs. You can, however, take the rest period once you have done the stretch with each leg. In other words, take the break once you have completed an entire set. You can also go back and forth between the quadriceps and the hamstrings stretches without taking any breaks if you want to shorten your stretching session.
- If you cannot touch your toes during the toe-touch stretch for hamstrings, then do not force it, as that may lead to injury. After a couple weeks of consistent stretching, you should have less difficulty with the stretch and should be able to touch your toes more easily.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.