An important part of whole fitness is flexibility, and each muscle group needs routine stretching. By incorporating flexibility exercises into your regular workout regimen, you minimize your risk for injuries and you maximize your athletic performance ability by increasing muscle suppleness. When stretching leg muscles, keep in mind that all muscle groups work together, and regular knee cap stretches are an essential part of keeping legs limber.
Quadriceps stretching is often incorporated into warm-up or cool-down routines for group exercise or sports, but along with full-body stretching, it’s a good idea to practice this stretch on your own daily to help keep your knee cap and related muscles flexible. From a standing position, bend your knee back behind you. Without twisting, reach back and grab your foot. Gently pull your foot in toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch in your knee cap and thigh. Stand up straight and don’t allow your leg to move out to the side or back. Hold the stretch between 20 and 30 seconds. Release your foot and perform a quad stretch with the opposite leg. If you have trouble grabbing your foot for this stretch position, you can prop your bent knee up against a wall or on a chair so that it’s easier to reach. You can also do quad stretches while lying on the floor.
Routinely stretching other leg muscles that support the knee cap helps keep it stronger and suppler. You can stretch your calf muscles in a number of ways. One way involves gently pushing against a wall. From a standing position, face the wall, extend your arms and place your hands flat against the wall. Either release your elbows so that you can lean your upper body into the wall, or take a couple of steps back, until you feel a stretch in your calf muscles. Hold the stretch between 20 and 30 seconds. Another way to stretch calves is with a forward stretch. From a standing position, move one leg slightly out in front of you. Place your foot flat on the floor and keep your leg straight, but do not lock your knee. Lean forward a bit toward the extended leg as you simultaneously flex your foot upward until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch to the other leg and repeat the stretch.
From a standing position, lift up your leg and bend your knee in front of you. Hug your leg with the arm on the same side and carefully balance on the other leg and foot. Hold your leg at the shin and gently pull it toward you, but do not pull on your knee cap. Avoid leaning forward and engage your core muscles for better balance. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds. Do the same with the opposite leg. You can also perform this stretch while lying on your back.
Sitting Knee Stretch
This knee stretch is also known as Hero Pose, or Virasana, in yoga. From a standing position, gently drop down to your knees. Make sure you have adequate padding for your knee caps, such as a mat or a towel. Lean back on flat feet so that your buttocks are resting on them. "Yoga Journal" recommends working toward resting your buttocks on the floor between your feet, but do not force your buttocks to the floor if it hurts. Hold between 20 and 30 seconds. You can also keep your feet flexed with the balls of your toes resting on the floor for support. If you have trouble reaching your feet with your buttocks, you can use a towel or a yoga block between your feet and your buttocks for support.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.