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Lower Body Stretches for Runners

Lower Body Stretches

Building Effective Flexibility for Outdoor Running

An outdoor alternative to indoor cardio machine sessions is the always reliable run, but remember that for the lower body, impact from natural and man-made surfaces requires some pre-run preparation in the form of a stretching session. In fact, there are several benefits that can derive from a targeted stretch to the lower body muscles: increased physical efficiency and performance; decreased risk of injury; increased blood supply and nutrients to your joints; increased neuromuscular coordination; reduced muscular soreness and stiffness; better muscular balance and posture, and less risk of lower-back stress. Consider including any of these for various specific major muscle groups:

For the Hamstrings

Standing Leg-Up Hamstring Stretch – Function: To stretch the hamstrings at the rear of the thigh; hamstring muscles insert on the muscle, and stretching can relieve the tightness that otherwise develops within the muscle, contributing in turn to back dysfunction. Performance: Using a chair, bench or low wall, position the heel of one foot with the toe facing directly upward. From a fully erect position, bend forward to grasp the thigh or leg, as far as you can stretch comfortably forward. As you build flexibility, you can use a higher bench or bar and increase your forward reach.

For the Quadriceps

Standing Quad Stretch Function: intense stretch to the quadriceps. Performance: Standing erect on one leg on a flat and stable surface, bring up the other leg behind you and squeeze it inward toward your butt. For balance, grasp a solid bar or surface with your other hand in front of you. You can increase the stretch by squeezing the glute muscle on the side of the quad being stretched.

For the Back, Sides, Gluteals

Standing Knee-to-Chest Stretch Function: Provide a stretch to the gluteus maxiumus (Gluteals), also a secondary stretch benefit to the lower back. Performance: Standing on a flat surface, bring one knee up directly toward the chest and pull in using both hands. Hold the knee inward toward your torso as tightly but as comfortably as possible; with practice you will be able to tuck your knee in towards your midsection more easily.

Hip Flexor Stretch Function: Also known as a “lunging stretch,” this provides stretch relief to the hip flexor muscles that run from the lower back to the front of the hip. Performance: From a fully erect standing position, take a full step forward while dropping down into a kneeling position on one knee, with hip slightly extended on the kneeling side. Hold in the bent position with the other leg fully extended straight behind you. Feel the stretch fully before repeating with the other foot.

For the Adductors and Groin

Squatting Leg-Out Adductor Stretch Function: Provide a primary stretch to all the leg adductor muscles. Performance: Standing with legs wide apart, keep one leg straight and toes facing forward as you bend the other leg and turn your toes sideways. Lower your groin area and rest your hands on the bent knee or ground. As you build flexibility, increase intensity by lowering yourself even further toward the ground.

Seated Groin Stretch Function: Targets all the muscles of the groin and inner thighs. Performance: in a seated, bent-knee position, with heels as close to your pelvis as possible, grasp the toes of both feet. Then change your grip to grasping your knees, and slowly push the knees apart to bring them as close to the floor as possible.

For the Calves

Calf Stretch Function: To stretch and tone all the calf muscles at the rear lower leg. Performance: Facing a wall or high, solid surface (tree trunk, fence), position your hands on it at shoulder height. Then move your feet backward until your body from arms to legs are extended in a straight line. With the left leg bent, stretch the heel to the floor. Adjust the lower body position further back to intensify this stretch.

Other variations to standing exercises you can try for variety or for additional stability by being seated or lying down include: seated or lying hamstring stretches; lying quadriceps stretch, and lying knee-to-chest stretch Other stretches you can also include if you want a more extensive lower body workout might include hurdler stretches (for the hamstring and groin muscles) and standing side stretches (for the muscles near the waist).

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Stretches for Muscle Flexibility and Growth


Heavily Muscled Physiques Can Benefit from Stretching Sessions

The benefits of stretching are multiple – and it only takes a few minutes of stretching to deliver all those benefits to your body. If you can include a minimum of just five to seven minutes of stretching both before and after your workout, you will be working towards increasing your flexibility and even your range of motion.

Stretching: Basics and Benefits

Stretching is also known to help prevent injury and reduce or avoid soreness. When you perform a session before regular exercise, it can reduce the tensions you may be carrying in various muscle groups. Often, we are unaware of these tight or tense muscles, but sufficient stretching can help them to respond positively and be readier for the stress put on them by weight training. Finally, stretching also improves cardiovascular circulation by assisting the capillaries to transport blood throughout the muscles with greater ease.

Notes Jon Van Der Assche, a heavyweight amateur American competitive bodybuilder: “At my weight, and the amount of muscle gains I’ve been adding through my diet and training, regular stretching has become essential in both the in-season and off-season periods. It has helped me be much more flexible, avoid injury during some heavy power lifting and has become a consistent part of my lifestyle.”

Integrating Stretching into Leisure or Exercise Activity

While stretching is beneficial to include in advance of an actual gym workout, you can also find your own opportunities to integrate it during time away from the gym or while doing other activities outdoors. A few basic upper and lower body stretches include:

  • Chest Stretch

Emphasis: extend and stretch the inner and outer pectorals. Performance: hold hands together with palms facing up behind your lower back. Hold position for about 10 seconds.

  • Shoulder and Neck Stretch

Emphasis: loosen the muscles supporting the neck; relieve tightness in the shoulders. Performance: Place both hands behind the back and hold the right wrist with the left hand. While tilting the head to the left also pull the right arm toward the left. Hold for about 10 seconds before repeating on the other side.

  • Posterior Shoulder Stretch

Emphasis: relieve tightness and enhance flexibility on the rear shoulders and delts. Performance: Hold the back of your left upper arm with the right hand and pull it across the chest gently. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on your other side.

  • Triceps Stretch

Emphasis: builds flexibility for the all the triceps areas, ensuring optimum strength performance and growth. Performance: Hold one end of a towel in the right hand and lift the right arm over the right shoulder, so the towel is hanging down the back. Reach up behind with the left hand and grab the other end of the towel. Gently pull the the triceps and lat muscles into a deep stretch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on your other side.

  • Groin Stretch

Emphasis: enhances flexibility in the groin and inner thigh areas. Performance: sitting on the ground, position the soles of the feet together. Grasp the ankles and gently push the knees down using the elbows. Hold for about 10 seconds.

  • Lunging Stretch

Emphasis: stretches the muscles of the hips, gluteals and front quadriceps. Performance: step forward with either leg and descend into a fully bent position while keeping the other leg straight. Hold for at least 10-15 seconds, then repeat with your other foot forward.

Achieving and Maintaining Flexible Muscularity

Before any stretching session, you should increase circulation by doing some light cardio endurance exercise first. Once the muscles have been warmed up they are more pliable for stretching and less likely to strain. Walking or any type of running is one efficient way to achieve a rapid warm-up. If you are indoors, you can access treadmills, step machines or run in place. Outdoors, you can do a few minutes of any simple activity that elevates the heart rate–walking, jumping rope, or swimming. With some minimum effort and consistency, you will have made stretching both a productive and proactive element of your bodybuilding lifestyle.

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