The four muscles at the front of your upper legs make up your quadriceps, which help bend and extend your knees. A sedentary, inactive lifestyle or prematurely taking on excessive exercise can tighten these muscles. This limits your range of motion and opens you up to muscle cramps and tears. To prevent this, take time to stretch and make heel-to-butt stretches part of your routine. To maintain your flexibility, stretch your muscles at least twice a week, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
Stand up straight with your feet parallel to each other and place your left hand on a nearby wall or other sturdy object to help you balance.
Tighten your abdominals, face forward and pull your shoulders back and down so you stand proud and tall.
Bend your right knee, raise your right foot off the floor and bring it up toward your buttocks as far as you can. Reach your right hand back and grasp your right ankle, gently pulling it up toward your buttocks to emphasize the stretch in the front of your right upper leg. Point your right knee down directly next to your left knee and hold this stretch for 30 seconds before switching sides. Repeat the standing stretch three times on each leg.
Lie on your stomach on a mat with your legs extended next to each other. Alternatively, lie on your left side with your legs extended and stacked on top of each other. Extend your left arm and rest your head on it, or prop up on your elbow to support your head with your hand.
Tighten your abdominals to help you maintain good posture and bend your right knee to bring your right heel up toward your buttocks.
Reach with your right hand behind you, grasp your right ankle and pull your heel closer to your buttocks. Hold the stretch in your quadriceps for 30 seconds before stretching your left leg. Do the lying stretch three times on each leg.
Come down on your knees on a mat, bring your left leg forward and bend your left knee 90 degrees, placing your foot flat on the floor in front of you.
Tighten your abdominals, face forward and bend your right knee, bringing your right heel up toward your buttocks.
Reach back with both hands, grasp your right ankle and slowly pull your foot as close as you can toward your buttocks. Lean your hips slightly forward to really emphasize the stretch in your right quadriceps. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before stretching your left quadriceps. Repeat the kneeling stretch three times on each leg.
Tips & Warnings
- Walk in place or jog lightly for five to 10 minutes before stretching to warm-up your muscles.
- Avoid bouncing during the stretches and breathe normally.
- Consult a doctor before beginning a stretching routine, especially if you have a health condition or injury.
- American Council on Exercise: Why Do Muscles Tighten Up?
- MayoClinic.com: Stretching: Focus On Flexibility
- MayoClinic.com: Slide show: A Guide to 10 Basic Stretches: Quadriceps Stretch
- ExRx.net: Lying (Prone) Quadriceps Stretch
- ExRx.net: Lying (side) Quadriceps Stretch
- Sports Injury Clinic: Kneeling Quad Stretch
- Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images