It is important to stretch the major muscle groups of the lower extremity before and after any walking or running exercise. The major muscle groups to be concerned about are the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles including the Achilles tendon. Muscles respond better when they are warmed up by increasing blood flow to the area. This can prevent some common leg and foot problems. Our main goal is always to keep you healthy, and live an active life.
The quadriceps tendon is made up of four muscles in the front part of the thigh attaching to patellar tendon in the front of the knee. This can be stretched from a sitting or standing position.
- Sitting Position - Raise one leg to thigh height with your foot and ankle at 90 degrees, hold for 10 seconds, rest for a few seconds and repeat 10 times. Then raise the opposite leg and repeat.
- Standing Position - Stand upright and pull one leg behind you with knee pointing downward and hold for 30 seconds. You can lean on a chair or wall for balance. Repeat using the other leg.
The hamstrings are the muscles in the back of the thigh. They are very susceptible to injury if they are not warmed up properly. This stretch can also be done from a sitting or standing position.
- Sitting Position - Sitting on the floor, stretch one leg out and have the other leg bend to just touch your inner thigh. Reach for your toes and hold for 30 seconds but don’t try to pull toes back. You should feel a steady stretch in the back of your thigh. Do not bounce. Switch leg positions and repeat.
- Standing Position - With your legs shoulder length apart, bend at the waist and try to touch the floor with your fingers. Only bend as far as you can. It is ok if you cannot reach the ground, just to go a level where you feel a steady stretch and hold for 30 seconds. Again, do not bounce these muscles.
The calf muscles consist of 3 muscles in the back of the leg which form together as it gets to the lower leg and forms a tendinous structure known as the Achilles tendon. This is a structure that also must properly be warmed up and cooled down to reduce the risk of a foot or leg injury. This is performed from a standing position.
- Arms shoulder length apart and extended to a wall, tree, or other supported surface.
- Place one leg back far enough from wall and straightened out with the heel touching the ground. The length away from the wall should be just far enough to feel a gentle stretch.
- The other leg should be flexed and distanced between the outstretched leg and the wall.
- Push into the wall from your shoulders keeping the back leg straight with the heel on the floor. DO NOT BOUNCE!!! This is a steady stretch.
- Hold stretch for 10 seconds, then bring the back leg off the ground to relax, and repeat.
- Do 10 repetitions for 10 seconds each, switch legs, and do the same in steps 1-6.
Strained muscles, tendons, and ligaments take time to heal. Following a proper warming up and cooling down stretching protocol can help you achieve your exercise goals.
Please note: If pain develops when performing these stretches, you must stop. Don’t try to stretch through it. If pain or discomfort persists, please seek medical attention before resuming activities.
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