Stretching is important and beneficial for athletes and anyone who wants to be in good health. Stretching promotes muscle recovery after working out or playing sports. No matter what sport you play or activity you participate in, having improved flexibility improves your performance. When you stretch all of the muscles in your legs, you end up stretching all of the muscles around your knee joints, too. The knee has no muscles. It's important to stretch the calf, quads, hamstrings, TLF and Iliotibial band to protect your knee health, increase your mobility range, and decrease your risk of muscle injury. There are also yoga poses you can do that promote knee flexibility and knee joint health.
Stretching Your Leg Muscles
Sit on the floor with your legs together straight in front of you to stretch your hamstrings. Straighten your posture and put your palms on the floor. Try to slide your hands toward your ankles along the floor as far as you can, bending from the hips rather than curling the back. This stretches the backs of your thighs and knees. Hold for 30 seconds.
Place one hand on a wall or a chair and lift the opposite foot to your butt to stretch your quad. Pull your heel to your butt with your hand until you feel the stretch on the front of your thigh, keeping your knees together and your torso straight. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Stretch your inner thighs by doing a side lunge. Spread your legs slightly farther than hip-width apart and bend one knee to stretch the opposite inner thigh. Hold for 15 - 20 seconds, then release. Complete three to five sets and repeat on the other side. You can also do a wall straddle to stretch your inner thighs, lying with your butt against a wall and your legs stretched along the wall, with the weight of your legs adding resistance against your inner thigh muscles. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, then release and rest for around 30 seconds. Complete three to five sets.
Stretch the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), which are muscles on the front of your hips. Stand upright and cross one foot behind the other. Then bend at the hips and lean your torso toward the back foot. Hold this stretch for about 15 to 20 seconds, and then repeat it three to four times on each side. This stretch will help alleviate knee and hip pain.
Stretch your calves by doing the wall calf stretch. Find a wall and stand facing it, slightly less than your arm's distance from it. Place the ball of one foot up against the wall, pressing your heel to the floor. Bend the other leg at the knee, keeping your back flat. Hold the calf stretch for at least 20 seconds and switch sides. You can also do downward facing dog, which is a basic yoga pose, to stretch out your calves, as well as the other muscles on the backs of your legs.
Stretching Your Knees
Stretch your Iliotibial band (ITB) which runs along your outer hips, thighs and knees. Place your hand against a wall or on a chair for balance. Cross your left foot over your right, keeping your ankles together. Reach your left arm straight up and over toward your right side until you feel the stretch on your left hip. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Stretch your knees by doing the easy pose, which is a simple yoga pose. Fold one or two towels or blankets for support beneath your butt if needed for a less intense stretch. Cross your legs at the shins, with either foot under the opposite knee and the hips and knees as wide as possible. Sit up tall on your sit bones and lengthen your spine. Rest your hands on your knees. Sit in this position to relax and stretch your knees. Remember to cross of other leg in front to switch sides.
Perform the bound angle pose, also known as the butterfly pose, to stretch your upper thighs, hips and knees. Begin in easy pose. Then, place the heels of your feet in front of the center of your hips, as close to you as you can while pressing your knees as close to the floor as possible. Hold onto your feet or lower legs to help you keep your back straight. Hold the butterfly pose for one to five minutes before releasing slowly.
- Do not expect to increase your flexibility over a short time frame. Flexibility happens gradually, and stretching too forcefully or overstretching can lead to injury.
Lindsay Haskell enjoys writing about fitness, health, culture and fashion. She is a contributor for "Let's Talk Magazine" and "The Wellesley News." Haskell is completing her B.A. in philosophy at Wellesley College. She's also a fiction writer whose work can be read online.