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Lower Body Stretches for Better Flexibility

It’s easy to skip on stretching during your workout routine or daily to-dos but as we covered in our last post, active and static stretching used effectively can greatly improve range of motion (ROM).  Especially today, as you might still be feeling the effects of lockdown back pain, and limited movement opportunities for your lower body. Physiotherapy for us is about taking a proactive approach not just rehabbing an injury. Stretching is a great way to improve flexibility, mobility and prevent injuries.

That’s why you need different warm-up(pre-exercise) and and cool-down (post exercise) stretches. Not sure where to start? We’ve compiled 8  lower body stretches, demonstrated and suggested by our Kiniseologist Erin.

Tips from our Physiotherapy and Kiniseology Team:

  • Remember to hold for 15-30 seconds, depending on your comfort levels. You may feel minor discomfort, but you shouldn’t feel pain.
  • Repeat 1-3 times as needed
  • Equipment: Floor mat, resistance band

Static Stretches

Static stretches are highly debated among trainers, physiotherapists and weekend warriors alike, but they have a place in any routine (and any suggested daily movement). Studies show static stretches are best used regularly to improve force production and range of motion, and combining static stretches with dynamic movements can further improve range of motion when used together.

Pretzel

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This exercise lengthens out the posterior chain from the lower back through the glutes and the hamstring

  • Start by laying on your back keep while keeping one leg straight, and out
  • Bring the other leg over the other, while keeping it in a bent position
  • Looking for a bit more of a stretch? Try using your  opposite hand to stretch the leg further if necessary, by gently pushing your leg down

Hip flexor stretch

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This stretch focuses on lengthening the hip flexor musclesa and quadriceps.

  • Start in a standing position, and take a large step backwards with one foot, so one knee is positioned behind you
  • Bring the back knee to the ground, and contract the corresponding gluteal muscle to bring the hip forward. You should feel a stretch in the front of your hips
  • For a slightly different stretch, move the hips forward into a deeper lunge

Hamstring/calf stretch

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This stretch targets hamstrings and the calf muscles.

  • Start by standing straight and move one leg slightly in front of you in an extended position
  • Hinge forward and you should feel a stretch down the posterior side of the leg

Downward dog

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This stretch targets a few muscles, in particular the hamstrings, calves and hips.

  • Start in a pushup position, and move your tailbone back towards the ceiling
  • The stretch should be felt throughout the back of your upper and lower legs
  • Pedal the feet up and down to feel more of a stretch in your calves

Foam roll

Foam rolling can help to prevent soreness and to massage the muscle after exercise.

Show here is foam rolling of the upper leg and gluteal muscles but any area that has been used heavily during exercise can be foam rolled. This guide provides solid information about the best way to foam roll properly.

Active Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic stretches are great before exercise, especially if you focus on movements similar to the sport or exercise about to be performed. Studies show that runners and athletes benefit more from dynamic stretches, than a gymnast looking to increased flexibility. The reason for that is because dynamic stretches increase nerve conduction velocity; muscle compliance and enzymatic cycling; accelerating energy production.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift with Band

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This exercise is to activate the gluteal muscles, hamstrings and smaller stabilizing muscles.

  • Start by keeping your shoulders, hips and ankles aligned in a straight line from top to bottom.
  • Hinge forward while keeping tension on the band, and maintaining alignment across your body
  • Try and keep the hips square to the ground and use the glutes and hamstrings to pull yourself back upright

Knee Flexion

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This exercise warms up the quadricep muscles and gets your heart pumping while lengthening the hip flexors.

  • Start by standing straight, then bend one knee and kick the foot back behind you.
  • Extend your foot back to the ground
  • Do the same with the other leg and repeat

Leg Kicks

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: This exercise hits the quads and hip flexors, by increasing blood flow through a dynamic movement.

  • Kick your leg straight out in front of you while keeping your hips level with the ground as much as possible
  • Keep in mind that it’s up to you how high you kick, it does not have to be high to be effective!

Air Squats

Body Part/Muscles Targeted: Squats often use many leg muscles, but in this variation the main targets are the quadriceps and gluteal muscles.

  • Start by spreading your feet slightly wider than hip width, and turn the toes out slightly
  • Squat down as if you were to sit back into a chair, then squeeze the gluteal muscles to stand back up
  • Make sure the knees do not go over the toes

Summary

It’s all about staying limber, especially now when opportunites to move around are a lot more limited. Keep in mind what type of movement/exercise you’re about to perform, or whether you’re looking to move around in general. For the latter, a mix of static and dynamic exercises works best, while the former would focus more on dynamic movements.

The Physio Shop specializes in evidence-based physiotherapy and massage therapy in a sweet commercial drive clinic, with a friendly barbershop feel. Plus, we do virtual sessions too, because 2020 right? If you’re dealing with nagging aches and pains, schedule a session with our finest Physiotherapists or Massage Therapists today. Or stop by and say hello to Sophie, that works too.

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