Stretching is the most important step in any exercise program. Stretching allows you to avoid injury and helps reduce generalized soreness following your exercise routine. Stretching large muscle groups is especially important in helping the body rid itself of built-up toxins to speed recovery. Stretching also increases flexibility and range of motion, allowing you to exercise more efficiently as your fitness level increases.
In order to ensure proper stretching of the quadriceps muscles, try the following tips:
- Stand with your feet flat and approximately shoulder width apart facing a wall or other immovable object.
- Lean forward slightly and raise one leg behind you, bending that the knee so that your foot is coming toward your rear.
- Reach back with your hand and grab your foot at the ankle and gently pull forward. It is at this point that you should begin feeling a slight burning sensation in the front of your thigh, where your quadriceps is located. This is the desired result from this movement and there should be no pain involved. If there is, you are pulling too hard and should release some tension by moving your arm slightly backward.
- Hold this position for a count of twenty while taking regular, even breaths. Concentrate on relaxing and loosening your muscles.
- Release your hold on your ankle and slowly place your leg back into the original position. Lean forward and repeat the process on the other side.
- Repeat stretches on both sides three to four times each in order to maximize the benefit.
A modified version of this stretch can be performed by people with knee or back injuries that will not allow full range of motion without pain. To accomplish the modified movement, stand squarely in front of a chair or other object for balance. Allow the leg to fall back and balance on your toes, while the leg under your body “lunges” forward. Hold this pose for a ten to fifteen count; then change sides. The lunge stretch will affect the same muscles as the stretch described above, but with less impact on your knees and back.
The key to successful stretching is slow, controlled movements. Stretching can't be rushed. Incorporate stretching into every exercise routine for improved balance, flexibility and faster recovery. You will notice a marked improvement in your overall performance after adding a warm up and cool down stretching session to each of your workouts.