Fitness · Health

Fitness Saturday: Two Best Leg Stretches Anyone Can Do

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This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shares two ways to stretch the large muscles of the legs.

I usually don’t like writing articles with definitive words like “best” because there is always more than one way to do any exercise and every body is different. That being said, we all need to learn to stretch the large muscles of the leg, which includes the hamstrings (the back of the upper leg), and the quadriceps (the front of the upper leg). There is a correct way to stretch these muscles that is very effective and safe by utilizing proper positioning, oppositional contraction, and deep breathing. Here are two of my favorite leg stretches that, barring injury or special contraindications, anyone can do.

Do the following two stretches, after you are warmed up, at least three times a week for maximum benefit.

Wall Hamstring StretchLeg On the Wall Hamstring Stretch

Begin by lying on the floor with your right side next to the edge of a wall or doorway. Align the bottom of your hips perpendicular to the edge of the wall and put your right leg up along the edge of the wall with your left leg flat on the ground. Relax your right leg and try to ground the back of your hips. If it’s impossible, move a little further away from the edge of the wall until you can. Keep the hips down and press the back of your right leg flat against the wall and feel the stretch on the hamstrings. Breathing deeply, hold the press for 20 seconds, then relax. See if you can inch your hips a little further toward the wall and repeat the 20 second press against the wall to stretch some more. Turn your body around and repeat the stretch with the other leg.

Note: The key to making this super effective is to keep your hips pressing down the whole time as you work on straightening your leg.


Prone Quad StretchProne Quad Stretch

Begin by lying face down on a mat. Bend your right leg, bringing your heel toward your buttocks and grab hold of your ankle with your right hand. Hold the foot gently and make sure your right leg doesn’t get off the center-line of the body. Exhale and press down with the front of your hips to start the stretch for the quad. Feel your right knee reaching down toward the end of the mat. Keep tucking the front of your hips down into the mat and breathe fully and deeply for three breaths. Then, slowly start to pull the foot closer to your hips to increase the stretch. Hold the pull with the hips still pressing down for three more full breaths. Gently release and repeat the quad stretch with the other leg.

Note: The key here is to keep pressing down with the front of your hips and feeling the stretch across the whole front of the thigh and not across the knee.
Remember, stretching isn’t only about improving flexibility. It is also about restoring balance to the body. Our sedentary lifestyle means our muscles are left in shortened positions for extended periods of time. This can lead to postural imbalances and mystery pains that come from weak/tight muscles especially in the legs. Even among avid exercisers, very few people do sufficient stretching to bring the body back into balance. Try to devote ample time (15 minutes or more) for post-workout stretching and you will really feel a difference in your body. I guarantee it!

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  • Swan September 26, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Hello – I love your Fitness Saturday exercises and I cannot imagine anyone not leaping out of bed to do them, even after a bit of a lie-in. I am a Pilates Teacher in Paris, France and am sometimes concerned with the extreme exercises shown on YouTube However, there are also some very good videos too. The exercises you mention in this series are exactly the ones I recommend to all my clients whether they are seasoned Pilates followers or just beginners. Safe and sure as promoted by Joseph Pilates himself and suitable for everyone. There is always time to progress to the more advanced programmes given the time.
    Bon w/e,