Leg stretches are a common way for people to prevent and alleviate tight leg muscles. Many athletes, especially runners, typically do some form of stretching before exercise, but leg stretches can be beneficial to most people regardless of their level of activity or physical fitness. In a sedentary lifestyle, including having a job that requires sitting all day, the leg muscles have a tendency to tighten. These tight muscles can contribute to injuries in daily or recreational activities, but by doing daily leg stretching, the muscles are able to elongate and loosen. The three main types of leg stretches include calf stretches, hamstring stretches and quadriceps stretches.
Tight calf muscles might occur for anyone, and they commonly affect women who wear high heels. There are several types of leg stretches to help loosen tight calves, including seated and standing stretches. An example of the seated calf muscle stretch is when a person sits on the ground with the legs extended out in front. The person holds the ends of a belt or towel in each hand and loops the middle of it around the soles of the feet, then pulls on the belt or towel to pull the toes toward the torso. An example of a standing calf stretch is when a person alternates pointing the toes and flexing the toes on each leg.
Hamstrings, or back thigh muscles, often are tight because of repeated sitting. The entire body’s muscle system is connected, and when one area is tight, it can affect other areas, such as back muscles. Some people stretch out the hamstrings by lying on their backs with the knees bent and feet on the floor. They alternately straighten each leg straight up by holding the back of the thigh with both hands and keeping the other knee bent. Standing hamstring leg stretches can include toe touches, which involves bending over and touching the hands to the feet.
Leg stretches for the quadriceps, or front thigh muscle, usually help to lengthen the hip flexors and provide exercisers a greater range of motion during workouts. An example of this type of stretch is to bend one knee and bring the foot up to the rear while balancing on the other leg. The quadriceps also can be stretched when a person lies on his or her stomach, bends the right knee, grabs the right foot with the right hand and pulls the foot toward the head. This stretch is then repeated on the left side of the body.