You probably know already what the static stretching is. You probably know several basic static stretches. But here are some stretching exercises you may not know yet, just because they are not as popular – though really effective and equally easy to perform. Check out those 4 lower body stretches and try them out after workout, either in the gym or at home. Read also Vol. 2 of this article to discover some new upper body stretches.
What you have to do before stretching statically
As opposed to dynamic stretching, which should be performed just after general warm-up activities – so at the beginning of a workout session, static stretching is to finish your session properly. To stretch statically, the muscles and tendons should be really well warmed up. So, do the static stretching in the final part of your workout.
Why you should stretch statically after workout
The role of static stretching is not only to increase flexibility, but also to initiate a proper muscle recovery. Every time you stretch, the muscles and tendons adapt to the extended amplitude of movement – and that’s how they become more and more flexible, if stretched regularly. Stretching stimulates also the blood flow within the muscles, and it’s the blood that supplies the tissue with all the elements necessary for the process of regeneration.
As you already know when and why to stretch statically, it’s finally time for the “how to”. Two very important things in every static stretching exercise are:
Don’t hold your breath!
Proper breathing allows you to stretch more safely and effectively. Try to relax and release the tension within the muscles. Take a deep breath directly before starting, and breath out as you’re going into the stretch. Keep breathing slowly the whole time you’re holding the stretching position.
Don’t do any pulsing or bouncing movements!
It’s the static stretching, so it’s about holding the muscles in one position that allows them to lengthen freely and relax. There’s no need for pulsing or bouncing in this kind of stretching.
The lower body static stretches
1) Calves – standing on the step
The most popular calf stretch is probably this one standing by the wall. Here’s another one, which can be even more effective, as the range of movement is greater than on the floor. In the gym, you can use wall bars. At home, a staircase with railing should be perfect for that one. Stand on the second rung of the bars, or on the first step down the staircase, heading the wall or the stairs.
Hold to the railing or to the wall bars with your hands bent in elbows, keep your balance. Next, stand only on the front part of your feet and let the heels go down as far as you can feel the calves are stretching. The upper body is tense to hold you still and safe. It’s the calves that should be loose now.
Breathe slowly and hold in that position at least for about 30 seconds. For some more force in the stretch, you can firstly stand on one foot, and then on the other. The leg that isn’t standing on the step or the bar should hang loosely along the other one – don’t bent the knee. This way it’s easier to keep the balance. Do the one leg version only if you feel comfortable performing the both feet stretch.
When you’re done, gently step down the bars or the step – never jump down. Even though the height isn’t great at all, the muscles and tendons that have just been stretched may not be ready to amortize the impact of the ground, so jumping down is the easiest way to an injury.
– lying on the floor
A great position to relax after a strenuous workout and stretch at the same time. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Bend the right leg in knee, and put the right foot next to your right buttock. You should feel the right quad stretching already in this position, but the real relief is when you actually lay your back on the floor.
Again, take a deep breath before you lay down, exhale laying down, and breath calmly for 30 seconds minimum as your quad is stretching. Then, roll to your left side to safely and easily come out of the stretching position, sit back up, and repeat the stretch with the other leg.
– lying on the bench
Among numerous ways to stretch quadriceps, this one is not only really convenient but also maximally effective at the same time. Lay down on your back on a low bench, so that your legs can firmly touch the ground and there’s the right angle between your thighs and calves.
Put the left leg a little bit backwards so that the toes, not the heel, lean against the floor. Take a deep breath, and breathing out pull the right leg as close to your chest as possible. Hold the right knee with your hands. Stay in this position for at least 30 seconds breathing calmly. Then, switch the legs and repeat.
– standing on the floor
The easiest way to stretch the back muscles of your thighs is to take a big step forward, both legs straight in knees. Then, take a deep breath and exhaling lean the torso down to touch the floor with your hands. Try to hold your body weight on the hands and the back leg, so that the front leg’s hamstring is freely stretching.
– leaning on the stairs, bench, or handrail
Another way to stretch your hamstrings is to put the front leg the stairs, bench, handrail, or the wall bars, if you’re at the gym. If you can put the leg as high as it’s parallel to the ground (the angle between the two legs is right), that’s perfect and you should go for it. But it’s also fine if the leg is a little bit lower than that.
Next, inhale deeply, and while exhaling try to lay your chest on the front leg. Both legs should be straight in this position. Put your hands on the handrail, bench, or the wall bars to keep your balance. Take at least 30 seconds for one leg.
4) Inner-thigh flexers – lying by the wall
This one is really great as you can actually see how the tendons relax and your flexibility is improving. Stand by the wall facing it. Then, lay down really close to the wall with your straight legs up leaning against the wall – your buttocks, thighs, and calves should be touching the wall, but your lower back lying firmly on the floor.
Take a deep breath, and as you breathe out, spread the legs to the sides, still straight and touching the wall. Keep that for 30 seconds. You’ll feel how your heels are gradually going down closer to the floor when you are actually doing nothing. Focus on calm breathing and being completely relaxed.
To safely come out of this position, roll to your left side and pull the right leg to the left one with your hands, if necessary. You can lay on your back and pull your knees to your chest to release the tension within the tendons.
Remember, that a stretching exercise is finished when you actually come out of the stretching position. So stay focused even when you’re going down from the step, or pulling your legs together. Try to avoid rapid movements, as your body is already tired after workout and now it’s been also stretched to its natural limits.
Stretch regularly, safely, and effectively. Look for new stretching exercises if you feel the ones you’re performing aren’t good enough for you, or simply if you’re bored with the traditional ones. Trying new things and introducing variety to workout boosts your motivation.
Read also Vol. 2 of this article to discover some new upper body stretches.