5 Simple Leg (& Hip) Stretches

The Importance of Daily Movement

As I mentioned in my previous post, Why Everyday Movement is Non-Negotiable, it is said that when we have to sit for long periods of time, we should get up to stretch and walk around every thirty minutes or so. The same goes for if we are at a standing workstation. It is important to incorporate movement throughout the day to nourish our cells. A few squats or other simple exercises can be nice little breaks throughout the day. That way, going to the gym after work can be optional.

As a matter of fact, if you think that going to the gym for one hour can make up for a long day of sitting for hours, that is not the case. We want to shape our daily life so that it is as similar as possible to how it was during hunter-gatherer times. And when it comes to movement, it has to be varied motion throughout the day. Taking short walks in the morning, at lunch, or after dinner, whenever you have a few minutes can be a great addition to your daily movement regimen. Start trying whatever fits your schedule best and be sure to only implement one change at a time in order to ensure adherence to it. 

Each day, I do a certain amount of stretches. Stretching is a habit most of us can benefit from, no matter what our fitness level is (Just make sure you get the okay from your personal physician before starting any new exercise routine). What follows are 5 simple leg (& hip) stretches that can easily be done every day.

Calf Stretch

  • Stand facing a wall 1 to 2 feet away.
  • Place your hands on the wall.
  • Keeping the right foot in place, position the left foot 1 to 2 feet behind the right foot.
  • Bend the right knee and lean towards the wall as you are keeping the left heel on the floor, 2 to 4 feet away from the wall. 
  • Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Quad Stretch

  • Stand upright with weight balanced on the right leg (hold on to something if needed).
  • Keep the right foot pointing straight forward and the right knee almost straight.
  • Bend the left knee by grabbing the left foot or ankle tightly and pulling the left heel backward and upward without over flexing the knee. Also, do not let the left knee go out at the same time.
  • Push the hips forward by doing a slight pelvic tilt.
  • Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie flat on your back. Place a yoga strap over and around the toes of the left foot and grab both ends of the strap firmly with your hands. Slightly activate the core muscles.
  • Slowly raise the left leg (pulling on the strap) until you feel a stretch in the back of the left thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Psoas (Hip Flexor) Stretch

  • Step forward with the right leg and bend the knee at about a 90-degree angle. Keep the right knee positioned above the right ankle. (If you have any knee issues you can instead put the right foot on a stable chair or couch, for instance, and bend the right knee. In that case, the left leg will not lie on the floor, of course). Hold on to something if needed.
  • Extend the left leg behind the torso and touch the floor with the left knee. The lower leg lies on the floor. 
  • Move the hips forward (doing a slight pelvic tilt and activating the glutes), pushing the right knee in front of the right ankle. Make sure to keep the right knee pointing forward. You should feel the stretch in the hip area on the left side.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Piriformis (Hip Rotator) Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with the left leg extended.
  • Bend the right leg and place the right foot on the outside of the left knee.
  • Bend the left arm and place the outside of the left elbow against the outside of the upraised right knee.
  • Put the right arm on the floor near the right hip. 
  • Push the left elbow against the right knee, twisting the trunk as far as possible to the right. Maintain enough pressure with the left elbow to keep the right knee in a stable position. Do not arch the back or bend forward at the waist.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

So, which one is your favorite stretch?

Until next time!  

Nelson, Arnold G, and Jouko Kokkonen. Stretching Anatomy. Champaign, Il, Human Kinetics, 2007, pp. 78–9, 98–9, 104–7, 130–1.

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