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Flexibility Exercises

Gastrocnemius

 

The standing straight leg calf stretch (fig. 278)

Uses: Stretches the gastrocnemius. This is an important stretch for activities that require explosive movements such as jumping and sprinting.

Description: This is the standard exercise for stretching the upper part of the calf muscle (gastrocnemius). Lean against a wall, car etc with the back leg straight and the front leg bent. To increase the stretch, lean closer to the wall whilst ensuring the heel of the back leg remains on the ground.

Special considerations:

. Do not stand too far away from the wall . Ensure the front leg is bent

. Keep both heels on the ground

Variations:

. A variation of the above is to have both legs straight, thereby stretching the gastrocnemius in both legs at the same time. The main limitation here is that one calf may be more flexible than the other.

Standing bent leg calf stretch

Uses: Stretches the Soleus muscle. The soleus, like the gastrocnemius is used extensively in all explosive movements such as sprinting and jumping. It should be stretched, therefore, before and after most sports and activities.

Description: This stretches the lower part of the calf. The position for the stretch is the same as that for the standing straight leg calf stretch except that the back leg, like the front leg is also bent. To increase the stretch, lean forward but make sure the heel of the back leg remains on the ground.

Variations:

. A variation of the above is to have both legs bent. This will stretch the lower part of both calf muscles. The major concern with this variation is that one calf may be more flexible than the other.

Quadriceps

Standard stretch

 

1. Standing quadricep stretch (fig. 294)

Uses: The quadriceps have two primary actions; as a hip flexor and in lower leg extension. Tightness of the quadriceps can cause groin problems and muscle tearing when participating in explosive movements such as sprinting. The standing quadriceps stretch is the standard exercise for maintaining flexibility of the quadriceps.

Description: Stand on one leg and pull the foot of the other leg into the buttock. Some people may have difficulty balancing on one leg. If this is the case, concentrate on something directly ahead or find a support such as a wall or stool. To increase the stretch, extend the hip (figure 295) and push the ankle against the resistance of the hand (i.e. as in a PNF stretch).

Variations

. Lateral quadricep stretch. The vastus lateralis can be effectively stretched by pulling the ankle towards the buttock of the leg that is not being stretched. . Medial quadricep stretch. The vastus medialis can be stretched by pulling the ankle to the outside of the buttock of the leg being stretched.

Standing hamstring stretch using a stool or table (fig. 300)

Uses: Stretches primarily biceps femoris of the hamstring group. The major action of the hamstrings is leg flexion with some hip extension. Runners are a group of athletes that are especially prone to either short or weak and tight hamstrings. However, most athletes should do some hamstring flexibility training while warming up and cooling down.

Description: With one leg straight, place the heel of the other leg on a stool. Bend with a straight back and hold the ankle of the leg that is on the stool. To increase the stretch, bend the arms and lower the chest to the thigh.

Special considerations:

. Always ensure the hamstrings have been warmed up prior to stretching.

. If the hamstrings are exceptionally tight, slightly bend the knee of the leg being stretched.

. Always keep the back straight.

Variations:

. Same as the above but with the supporting leg bent (fig. 301).

. Same as the above except the hands grip the outside of the leg being stretched. This increases the stretch to the lower back and the medial portion of the hamstring group (fig. 302).

Hip flexor stretch (fig. 316)

Uses: This is a good stretch for superior portion of the quadriceps (hip flexors) and the deeper muscles of the hip (iliopsoas). If the iliopsoas is strengthened and not lengthened by stretching, extra strain can be put on the lumbar spine area resulting in lower back problems.

Description: Move one leg forward until the knee of the forward leg is directly over the ankle. The other knee should be resting on the floor. Without changing the position of the knee on the floor or the forward foot, lower the front of the hip to create a good. stretch.

Variations:

. To increase the stretch, lean forward and while supporting the upper body weight (fig. 317).

 

 

Abductor stretch (fig 322)

The stretch shown in fig. 322 is a good abductor stretch. Begin the stretch by kneeling on the floor and drop one hip to the side while keeping the weight on the hands. A variation is to place the legs to the side, lift up with the hands and push the hips to the floor (fig. 323). This also stretches the external oblique muscle of the abdominal area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seated gluteals stretch (fig. 324)

Uses: The action of the gluteals is thigh extension, rotation and abduction. The gluteals are a powerful group of muscles that are used in just about all leg movements. There is a problem however in stretching them effectively.

Description: Sit on the floor with one leg straight and pull the other up to the chest with the hands. This same stretch can be done just as easily by sitting in a chair and pulling one knee to the chest.

 

 

 

Variations:

. Advanced gluteal stretch (fig. 325). Lie on the back. Bend both knees and place one ankle on the other knee. Now thread one hand between the legs, clasp the hands and pull the knee to the chest. This sounds awkward, but is an excellent isolation stretch for the gluteals.

 

 

 

 

 

Seated toe touch (fig. 347)

Uses: The vertebral column is held together by strong ligaments and supported by muscles. With inactivity and ageing, the discs and ligaments may harden, leading to poor flexibility and eventually back pain. Specific stretching exercises for the lower back can help in preventing and alleviating back problems. The seated toe touch stretches the lower back muscles (inferior portion of erector spinae) that surround the lumbar vertebrae and hamstrings.

Description: Sit on the floor with legs straight and together. Lean forward by bending at the hips, not the back, and clasp the toes or ankles depending on the degree of flexibility (fig. 347). To increase the stretch, bend the arms and lower the chest to the

thighs (fig. 348). While in the fully flexed position a PNF stretch can be incorporated by trying to extend the back against the resistance of the hands.

Special considerations

. Do not stretch to the point of pain. Touching the toes or going further should only be considered a goal to be achieved.

. Do not bounce in and attempt to increase the stretch while in the fully flexed position.

. Do not bend forward with the back, but at the hips.

Spinal twist (fig. 358)

Uses: The spinal twist is a good stretch for the upper back, lower back, side of the hips and rib cage. This stretch will help in rotation of the trunk.

Description: Sit on the floor with one leg straight. Bend the other leg and place the foot on the outside of the thigh of the straight leg (fig. 358). Now rotate the body and look over the shoulder of the arm that is supporting the body (fig. 359).

 

Tibialis anterior bent leg stretch (fig. 291)

Uses: One of the few stretches that effectively stretches the tibialis anterior muscle. Poor flexibility of tibialis anterior can be the cause of anterior lower leg pain.

Description: Sit on the heel of one leg while supporting the upper body with the opposite hand. Now pull the knee up.

Special considerations

. While in this position the knee is in severe hyperflexion so ensure that the total body weight is never on the heel.

Tibialis anterior straight leg stretch (fig. 292) Uses: Stretches the tibialis anterior by contracting the calf. This is also a good mobility exercise for the calf and shins during a warm-up.