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I've been going to the gym about 4 times a week, splitting my workout between cardio and strength training. In order to properly maintain my heart rate for my cardio plan, I have to do that before the strength training. It's not too strenuous, but I do my cardio work 4 times a week and my strength training 3 times a week. Necessarily, one of my cardio days is right after my strength day, and then a day off from both after that. I just started the Strong Lifts 5x5 program, so the weight isn't anything special just yet.

One of the areas I'm deficient in is flexibility. I'm working on that, but due to the amount I use my legs, they seem to stay stiff. In particular, I feel my quadriceps pulling on me for the first minute when I get up and start walking around. They are also an area I don't stretch enough.

I'm interested in more than just stretching the quadriceps, so please provide some insights, tips, stretches, etc. that will help with my leg flexibility. I'd like walking to not feel like my legs are working against me.

Feel free to post multiple stretches in your answers. Extra kudos if you can come up with a complete routine.

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please see how you can edit your question to require multiple stretches in one answer, because the last thing we want is a whole list with everyone's favorite stretch exercise. –  Ivo Flipse May 4 '11 at 19:07
    
@Ivo, done. I realize you are trying to improve the quality of the questions and answers on the site. –  Berin Loritsch May 4 '11 at 19:20
    
Any other answers? @aykanal's is good, but I'm sure there are other answers. –  Berin Loritsch May 5 '11 at 12:38
    
I actually don't stretch @Berin, though perhaps I should to get a more 'normal' range of motion in my hips and ankles. –  Ivo Flipse May 5 '11 at 13:39
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here are a few exercises which would be beneficial to the general hips/legs musculature:

  • Lunges - a good staple stretch exercise, which can stretch your gluteous maximus (butt), quads, and hamstrings. Check out this youtube video for a basic lunge. There are many different variations.

    • The side lunge, also shown in the above video, stretches the butt as well as the thights.
  • Glute Stretchs - works on the butt, as name says. Can be done standing, sitting, or lying.

  • Calf stretches - again, stretches specifically the calf muscle. The easiest to do is probably the standing variation, but you can do this sitting using equipment, or by pulling the end of your foot with your hand if flexible enough.


In response to a comment by @Berin here, if you want to limber up for squats I would recommend doing what Ripptoe suggests in his Starting Strength book: do squats without any weight whatsoever, just as a stretching exercise. While doing it, keep the following in mind:

  • Squats should be done with toes facing approximately 30 degrees out.
  • The knees should be parallel with the feet at all times during the squat.
  • Do full squats; go down until your quads (the top part of your leg) are parallel with the floor.
  • At the bottom, your knees should just be over your toes; if they're too far forward or back, stick your butt out back more.

If you're having trouble keeping your quads over your toes, which are 30 degrees out, he suggests that when you get to the bottom put your elbows against your knees and put your hands together. That should push your knees apart to approximately the correct distance. Maintain that for 10 seconds or so, and then go back up and do it again.

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Yep, I do those. It gets my hip flexors and a little of the upper thigh, but not too much on the rest of the quads. I'll definitely keep them as part of my routine. –  Berin Loritsch May 4 '11 at 17:44
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Just one stretching exercise? Surely there are more options? Besides, it doesn't explain what muscle groups it stretches and why that would be a good thing. So please elaborate some more in your answer –  Ivo Flipse May 4 '11 at 18:52
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@ivo - There's this nice, big "Add Another Answer" button below... feel free to use it :) Seriously, I'm sharing one that I'm familiar with. I'll add some info about anatomy, but others can share stretches they're familiar with. –  eykanal May 4 '11 at 19:03
    
@ivo - added a bunch. Lots of this info came from exrx.net , which I find to be a pretty good, thorough resource. –  eykanal May 4 '11 at 19:19
    
Thanks a bunch, I knew you had it in you ;) –  Ivo Flipse May 4 '11 at 20:04
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I know there already is an accepted answer to your question but I thought you might find the following link quite useful:

Lower Body stretching

Some of the ones from the link above that I prefer:

  1. Hamstring Stretch

    Lie on floor with knees bent. Straighten one leg and slowly pull it towards you, clasping the thigh, calf or ankle. Keep knee slightly bent. Switch legs.

  2. Quad Stretch

    Lie down on your side using elbow for balance. Using other arm, slowly pull your foot towards your glutes, keeping both knees together and bent knee pointing down. Switch legs.

  3. Inner Thigh Stretch

    Sit on floor with feet pressed together. Keeping abs in, lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in your inner thighs.

Coming from a kickboxing background, leg flexibility was quite important. I personally found the hurdle stretch, fantastic. I found it great for the hamstring muscle and also the lower back. However as pointed out in the comments there are some arguments against this exercise. Although I personally never had any issues with it. I did it twice a day 5 days a week for about 3 years and it never gave me any bother.

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-1 for the hurdle stretch recommendation. This is a controversial stretch currently, and I personally don't recommend it unless you ARE a hurdler, as it places a tremendous strain on the knee. A safer method is to place the sole of the foot of the "back" leg against the thigh of the leg you are stretching. If you are flexible, this will be near the crotch, if you are not, it may be down around the knee. You still stretch through the belly of the hamstrings, without the unnecessary stress on the opposite leg. –  JohnP Sep 18 '12 at 14:41
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