When your legs feel heavy, sore, and somewhat tired, stretching can be of great help. Some of the best leg stretching exercises tackle each and every muscle independently so that you can really get deep into those fibers and reap the most benefits.
As easy as they are to perform, they do require time, patience, and potentially a few uncomfortable sensations from time to time. So take your time, don’t rush your moves, focus on your breath, and try to relax as much as possible.
Passive stretching helps reduce muscle stiffness and promotes the breakdown of lactic acid that builds up after strenuous exercise or being on your feet all day. Here are six great exercises you can perform basically any place and anytime.
One of the best ways to improve your blood flow, stimulate your lymphatic system, and help break down lactic acid is by getting your legs in an inverted position. And since this is supposed to be relaxing and easy to hold for at least five minutes, legs up the wall is probably the best leg stretching exercise you can do.
Start by placing a mat next to a wall, the edges touching the sturdy surface. Lie on your back and try to shimmy your legs as close to the wall as possible, so your glutes touch the surface. Relax your feet and just hold this position. You can read a book, scroll through social media, or do whatever makes you forget about the time.
Stay here for at least five minutes and feel the blood rush down your legs back toward your heart and the lightness you’re beginning to feel from your feet to your hips. This is also a great exercise for your lower back as it’s flat on the floor, relaxing the muscles surrounding it.
If this feels too intense for you, you can lift your legs up on a chair and relax your calves. This will give you the same benefits but make the leg stretching exercise a little bit easier.
Place your mat next to a wall and sit on the floor so your back touches the wall. Spread your legs wide and place your palms flat on the floor in front of you. Take a big inhale and push the hands into the floor while you extend your spine.
Exhale and gently walk forward with your hands. Take another inhale, extend your spine; exhale and walk a tiny bit further. Repeat this motion until your back starts to curve and then stop where you are, relax your torso and relax your head. Stay here for at least two minutes, gently swaying side to side or staying still. On your way out of the pose, slowly walk your hands back to their starting position, bend your knees, and bring them close to your chest.
Come into a runner’s lunge on your right leg and bring the knee of your left leg down on your mat. Take a big inhale and on your exhale, let your hips sink down. This will stretch your right hamstring and left hip flexor, allowing them to elongate with each breath cycle.
You can place your left hand on the floor and use the right palm to push your right knee a bit further out so you open your right hip as well. Stay here for at least a minute before repeating the same thing on the other side.
If you want to take it a step further, you can place your right foot slightly more to the right and create a bigger separation from your left leg. This way, you’ll get deeper into the hips and help improve your range of motion at the same time.
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Start in a runner’s lunge on your right side and place the shin of your right leg perpendicular to your left leg. Bring the left knee down and fix your position by shifting your right shin to the level of your flexibility. If you have tight hips, your shin will probably be more diagonal than perpendicular, and your right heel will come somewhere under your left hip.
Whatever your level of flexibility is, you have to honor it as pushing past your limits might end in injury. Place your palms next to your hips and take a big inhale to prepare and elongate your spine, exhale and bring your forearms on the floor in front of your right leg. Relax your torso over your leg and feel the stretch in your right hamstring and right hip. You can stay here for a minute or extend your arms fully on the floor and relax your head.
You can even grab your elbows and relax your forehead on your forearms. Take deep breaths and make sure your hips aren’t falling to either side. The goal is to keep them as square as possible. On your last exhale, slowly walk your hands back to their starting position (near the hips) and switch legs.
Lie on your mat and bend your knees. Bring them close to your chest and hug them tightly, so you can feel your entire back relax and stretch on the floor. Grab your feet from the inside and push your feet into your palms at the same time as you pull them down. Let your knees graze your side torso and feel that dual motion stretch your hips, your hamstrings, and your lower back.
Stay here for at least a minute and then relax your legs. You can add a rocking sensation while you’re in the pose to further massage your spine, but if you don’t feel like that’s comfortable for you, simply stay still, relax your upper body, and enjoy this leg stretching exercise.
Ragdoll is a very easy pose that uses gravity to help stretch your legs in the most natural way possible. Start in a standing position, with your feet at a hip-width distance. Slowly start rolling down into a forward fold. Grab your elbows and bend your knees if you need it. Gently sway side to side, say yes and no with your head gestures, and feel gravity elongating your hamstrings and your calves, bringing your arms closer to the floor with each passing second.
Stay here for at least a minute and then slowly roll all the way back up to the standing position you started in.
Now that you’ve got leg stretching exercises to help with tired legs, here are some awesome moves for your back that can save you from sitting in your office all day.