Stretches Series: How to Stretch Your Upper Legs
Stretches are one of the most important things you can be doing for any body part. They help you keep in good shape, encourage muscle growth, avoid injury and perform the best that you possibly can do. They're pretty awesome. Here, we're talking about stretches for your legs and your upper legs in particular. That includes your glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings especially, but there's something for everything.
There are more stretches out there than you might realise, too. To help get you off to a flying start, we've highlighted some of the best of them to help stretch out your upper legs. (To make things even easier, check out the video at the bottom demonstrating them too).
Firstly, a classic among leg stretches the forward lunge. It's great as an exercise and as a stretch. It targets pretty much all of the upper leg muscles, font and back, and justifies its fame. Really, it's one of the most effective leg stretches out there, so it’s well worth doing next time you’re doing pretty much anything to do with your legs! Despite the name, it is advisable to step backwards and lunge rather than a forward step, before bending and returning to your straight stance.
The next muscles we need to stretch are the glutes. These huge muscles need looking after since they are so necessary for standard movements, even when they aren't the focus. One of the easiest ways to hit the glutes accurately is the knee raise.
To do the knee raise, lay flat on your back, ideally on a cushioned surface to protect your back, and bring your knee into your chest. The higher and closer you manage to go, the better it will be for the glutes in the long run too, so bear that in mind. Alternate legs for the most effective way to stretch and repeat as needed.
Moving on from the glutes, we'll hit the adductors with, instead of a forward lunge, a lateral lunge. The lateral lunge does work the same muscles as the forward lunge, but in a very different way and with the addition of the adductors, which is crucial to a full leg stretch.
The idea is to stand with your feet apart from each other, and then bend one knee to the floor as you would with a forward step in the standard lunge with the other leg straightened and out to the opposite direction, hold for a second, and return to your starting position before alternating. It will make you need to use your hips more and work the muscles as you need them.
Side Leg Lifts
On the flip side of this, we have the abductors. These are often missed out in stretches and even in workouts, but they are massively underrated and can be really helpful if you utilise them. They are responsible for pushing your thighs apart from each other rather than pulling them together like the adductors are doing above, so it’s good to have an appropriate balance.
This is done by lying on your side and raising one leg directly upwards, reasonably as high as possible, before slowly bringing back down in a controlled motion to make the stretch as effective as it can be. As with all of these leg stretches, repeat with the other leg for a balanced stretch.
Standing Foot Grab
This is another classic that we’re sure you will have at least seen done before. It’s very common in sports and running, so it’s not uncommon to see it on the streets or at the gym. It works your quads on the front of your thighs, and so is essential for your stretching as this is a big player in any leg movement.
For this, you need to bend your knee behind you so that your heel is almost touching your glutes, and slowly returning back to the starting position. This will make sure you're stretching properly, but make sure you aren't really moving your knees forwards backwards or sideways, just bending in a pivoted position.
We’ll finish off with leg circles, another compound stretch but mainly this time focussing on the hamstrings. The hamstrings are renowned for being easy to pull, so this could be a lifesaver once you get started.
On your back again, raise the left leg straight upward in front of you and as you lower it down, lower it outwards at the same time, bringing it in at the bottom and back up again to form the circle. Repeat this a few times before switching legs, and you should feel the benefit pretty much instantly.
Once you’ve done all of these, your upper legs should feel ready for anything, and your risk of injury is massively reduced already. The dynamic nature of the leg stretches makes them far better equipped to tackle your workout as warm-up, and the more often you do these stretches, the easier they will become. You'll find them useful for cooling down too. The only negative that can really come from stretching, in general, is overstretching, so as long as you don’t push yourself too far, continue at your own pace!
Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.
If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.