When feel tightness in the knee and ankle area, it is because the muscles are stiff. To reduce this tightness, stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, anterior tibialis and plantar muscles. The quads and hamstrings are above the knees, the calves are below the knees on the backside of the leg, and the anterior tibialis runs down the shins. The plantar muscles are on the sole of the foot.
Knee highs are dynamic stretches, which are performed while in motion. These not only loosen up the knees, but they also relax the hip flexors. While standing with your feet together, lift your right foot, bend your knee and raise your thigh up toward your chest. Slowly lower it back down and repeat with your left leg, continuing to alternate back and forth. If you lose your balance, place one hand lightly on a table or wall.
Leg swings stretch the hamstrings and quadriceps dynamically. To do these, stand with right side to a wall or counter, and place your hand on it lightly. Raise your right leg and alternate swinging forward and back as high as possible in each direction. Switch sides and legs. While doing this exercise, it is essential to keep your swinging knee straight throughout.
Low lunges stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps statically. Static stretches are held for a series of seconds. To do this stretch, step forward with your right foot and lower yourself down to the ground so your left knee and top of your left foot are flat against the floor. Place your hands on the floor by your right foot and lean forward slightly to emphasize the stretch in your hamstrings. Switch legs and repeat the lunge. When doing this stretch, make sure your front knee does not go past your toes. Place a towel or yoga mat on the floor to pad your back knee.
A seated towel pull stretches the calves and plantar muscles. From a seated position on the floor, extend your legs straight in front of your body and wrap a towel around the balls of your feet. Gently pull back until you feel the stretch in your calves and on the bottom of your feet. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and release. For a variation, perform this exercise one foot at a time.
A wall calf stretch lengthens the calves and plantar muscles. While standing about 2 feet from the wall with your legs in a staggered stance, place your hands on the wall at chest height and lean your body forward until you feel a strong stretch in your calves. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and slowly release. Switch leg position and repeat. When doing this stretch, bend your front knee and keep your back leg as straight as possible. To place more emphasis on the soleus, the lower part of the calves, bend both knees.
Downward-facing dog is a yoga pose that stretches the hamstrings, calves and plantar muscles simultaneously. From a push-up position, raise your hips in the air as you push your weight back onto your heels. Once you have formed an inverted V with your body and your arms, making sure your back and legs are straight, hold this position for one to three minutes. For a variation, alternate lifting one leg high in the air behind your body.
The tibialis stretch is performed from a kneeling position on the floor. After flattening the tops of your feet onto the floor, lean back and sit right on your heels. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. If your anterior tibialis muscles are very tight, this is going to be difficult. Slowly ease yourself back to reduce the discomfort.
- runners stretch image by LadyInBlack from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.