Stiff and sore lower body? Try these stretches to loosen stiff legs.
How are you feeling right now? Probably a bit stiff and sore, from sitting down all day long, we imagine. A good back stretch and shoulder work will probably help you out, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just your hunched upper body that can cause tightness.
After a week of training hard, your lower body will probably be in need of some care, too. Most training that we do will impact our legs in some way, whether that’s through stabilising, pushing or pulling.
“Not stretching out after training like cycling or running will especially make the legs feel tighter,” says yoga teacher Donna Noble. And all of the three large muscles in the legs (the quads, hamstrings and calves) have huge knock-on effects on the rest of your body. Tightness can translate as joint stiffness, back pain and even affect performance.
The message? Don’t skip your post-workout cool down. But until your next session, these stretches might make the world of difference to your tight leg muscles, according to Donna.
“In downward dog, gently bending one of the knees will give you a deep hamstring and calf stretch on the opposite leg,” says Donna. Make sure that you don’t tilt your pelvis when you do this: keeping your hips straight will generate a deeper stretch.
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Another great one to target the back of the legs as well as releasing tension from the spine. “Standing straight, fall forward from the hips. If you can, hook your fingers under your toes or place the hands under your feet and push the hips back to start to get a deeper stretch,” says Donna. “The thighs should engage, but you also get an amazing release through the hamstrings.”
Especially important for post-workout stretching, a “runners lunge can work through the hips as well as the quads,” says Donna. Coming down into a kneeling position, place one foot on the floor in front of you and lean into the lunge position. The back leg should be taking the stretch down the front of it.
Donna recommends standing with the toes of one foot on a block, a book or a slightly raised surface and let your heel press down towards the floor to stretch all the way up through the calf.
Knee to chest
Lying on the floor, keep one leg down while you bend the other one in towards your chest. “You should feel this down the back of the bent leg,” says Donna. “But to go further, extend the leg up towards the ceiling so it is straight while you keep pulling in towards the body.” If you need more assistance, loop a resistance band around the foot to pull it towards you.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).