Stretches for the Lower Body

Stretches for the Lower Body

Why do I need to Stretch?
Sitting in front of a desk 5 – 6 days a week, running after the kids and daily home chores, light and heavy physical labour – all in their own way can wreak havoc on your body.

This is even more especially so because the majority of us do not have and are not particularly careful or knowledgeable about our posture.

Taking time to do some basic stretches to suit your particular needs will not only help increase your flexibility, they will also reduce tension and stress whilst allowing you to do your tasks more efficiently, with more safety against injury and discomfort.

The stretch should be done until you feel a slight pulling of the muscle, but not pain. As you hold the stretch the muscle will begin to relax. Then as you feel the tension easing, you can increase the stretch again until you feel the same slight pulling. Hold this position until you feel no further increase.

Instructions
1a – Lower & Upper Back & Hips Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Upper & lower back, hips & rib cage.

Sit with your left leg straight & bend your right leg across & over the left knee. Extend your left arm across the right knee & place the right arm behind your body.


1b - Lower & Upper Back & Hips Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Upper & lower back, hips & rib cage.

Inhale & whilst keeping the left knee in that position turn the upper body and head to the right & behind you, during which you should exhale. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds without breathing deeply, and repeat on the other side.


2 – Hips & Groin Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips & groin.

Bring the soles of your feet together, place your elbows on the inside of your knees & lightly grasp both ankles. To increase the stretch, press down lightly with the elbows against the knees and lean slightly forward keeping the back straight. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.


3 – Hamstrings Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hamstrings & behind the knees.

Sit down with your upper body upright & your legs extended in front of you. Place your hands on the side of your hips & with the hands facing backwards. Pull your toes towards you & then slowly lean forward with the upper body, back straight, whilst applying downward pressure on the hands. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.


4 – Thighs & Knees Stretch
Posture: Stand upright with knees slightly bent.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups:Thighs (Quadriceps) & Knees.

Bend the right knee and hold on to the ankle with your right hand. The left knee remains bent. Do not arch the back, but rather lean slightly forward from the waist. To increase the stretch, move the knee and foot slightly backwards. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then repeat with the left leg.See also Stretch # 19 for those who may not be able to do this stretch.


5a – Lower Back & Hamstring Stretch
Posture: Stand upright with knees slightly bent.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Lower back & hamstrings.


5b – Lower Back & Hamstring Stretch
Posture: Relax & tuck the abdominals whilst bending forward.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Lower back & hamstrings.

Whilst completely relaxed, feet about shoulder width apart, bend the knees and slowly curl down with the shoulders and upper body. Place your hands on your knees to help steady and control the movement.

Once bent over, your hands will now leave the knees and extend towards your toes. If you cannot touch your toes even with bent knees, don’t worry. Keep the knees bent as much as is required and comfortable. You should feel the stretch behind the knees and in the hamstrings. Beginners may not feel the hamstring stretch until they become more flexible. This is not a problem. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds having exhaled all your breath whilst taking only short breaths through the mouth while in the maximum extended (bent over) position. Head is also relaxed.

Slowly uncurl to an upright position keeping the knees bent throughout the movement. On the way up repeat the hands on the knees for stability and help to keep any strain off the lower spine.


6a – Calves Stretch
Posture: Stand upright with the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Calves.

This illustration demonstrates the end position of the stretch whilst holding onto a chair or similar for support. To start, move the left leg forward keeping the feet shoulder width apart for balance. Bend the left knee, with the upper body slightly forward, back straight and the front knee never moves beyond the toes. In this photo the right leg remains in the starting position and is the leg which is being stretched. The further forward you move the left leg, the greater the stretch on the right leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on the other leg.


6b – Calves Stretch
Posture: Stand upright with the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Calves.

This illustration demonstrates the end position of the stretch without support. To start, move the left leg forward keeping the feet shoulder width apart for balance. Bend the left knee, with the upper body slightly forward, back straight and the front knee never moves beyond the toes. In this photo the right leg remains in the starting position and is the leg which is being stretched. The further forward you move the left leg, the greater the stretch on the right leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on the other leg.


7 – Inner Thigh Stretch
Posture: Lie flat on your back.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Inner thigh.

Lie flat on your back. Bend the knees and try to bring the soles of the feet together. Try not to bounce. Take the stretch to its maximum and lower the knees. Increase the stretch according to your capability. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds.


8 – Calves & Hamstrings Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hamstrings & Calves.

Sit with one leg extended and the other bent with the foot turned in towards the knee of the extended leg.

Place each hand just below the knee of each leg.

Flex the foot of the extended leg towards the hips.

You should already feel a stretch behind the extended leg.

To increase the stretch, bend the upper body towards the extended foot whilst keeping the back straight. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds.


9a – Lower Back , Hips & Gluteus
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees and the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus and Lower Back.

Place the hands behind your head or on your abdominals.


9b – Lower Back, Hips & Gluteus
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees and the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus and Lower Back.

Lift and place say the right leg over the left knee as shown. This leg is going to apply the weight so as to move the left knee as close to the floor as possible.


9c – Lower Back, Hips & Gluteus
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees and the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus and Lower Back.

Inhale and apply the force needed to move the left knee to the floor, all the while exhaling until you reach your maximum extension. Take shallow breaths through the mouth while holding the stretch for 15 – 20 seconds. Then slowly return to the start position and change legs.


10a - Lower Back & Shoulders Stretch
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees and the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus(buttocks) and Lower Back.

Concentrate on muscles being stretched. Muscle Groups: Abdominals & Lower Back.

Lie completely relaxed with hands behind your head or resting on your abdominals (preferable).


10b – Lower Back & Shoulders Stretch
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent to 90 degrees and the feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus (buttocks) and Lower Back.

Take a deep breath in through the nose and in to the abdomen – not the upper chest – followed by tensing & squeezing the abdominal section in towards the lower back and gluteus (buttocks) while exhaling through the mouth. Repeat for 8 – 10 repetitions.


11 – Lower Back & Gluteus Stretch
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus, Hamstrings and Lower Back.

Extend one leg and bring the other knee to the chest. Interlock your fingers under the bent knee and draw the knee as close to the chest as possible. Inhale before taking a grip under the knee and exhale all the way until the knee gets to its maximum range. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds while taking shallow breaths.


12 – Lower Back & Gluteus Stretch
Posture: Lie on your back with the knees bent.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus & Hamstrings.

Bend both knees to the chest. Grip under each knee and draw the knees as close to the chest as possible. Inhale before taking a grip under the knees and exhale all the way until the knees get to their maximum range. If possible, you can try to lift the buttocks slightly to increase the stretch. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds while taking shallow breaths.


13 – Calves & Lower Back Stretch
Posture: Commence on all fours.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips, Gluteus & Hamstrings.

A more advanced stretch. Get in to a position resting on your arms which are at shoulder width apart. Legs are extended backwards for the body to attain a “V” shape. Extend one heel to touch the floor whilst moving the other leg towards the chest. This helps the stretch and removes pressure from the lower back. Alternatively stretch one leg and then the other for 10 – 12 repetitions each.


14 - Hurdlers Hamstring, Calf & Lower Back Stretch
Posture: Sit upright. Advanced.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hamstrings, Calves & Lower Back.

Sit with one leg extended and the other bent with the foot turned in towards the knee of the extended leg.

Place both hands as far below the knee as possible keeping the lower back relaxed.

Flex the foot of the extended leg towards you.

You should already feel a stretch behind the extended leg.

To increase the stretch, bend the upper body lower towards the extended foot and move the hands even closer to the flexed foot, whilst keeping the back straight. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds.


15 - Stretch Thigh, Hamstring & Gluteus
Posture: Stand upright feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Thighs, Gluteus, Hips & Buttocks.

Take a giant step forward with say the right leg trying to maintain the width of the feet to help balance.

Place your right armpit over the forward knee and the right arm on its side. The left knee will be bent towards the floor and to touch if possible. Ensure that the right knee does NOT extend over the right toe line. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds and then slowly return to the start position to stretch the other leg.


16 – Thighs & Hips (Lunge) Stretch
Posture: Stand upright feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Thighs, Gluteus, Hips & Buttocks.

Take a giant step forward with say the left leg trying to maintain the width of the feet to help balance.

Relax your arms to the sides unless you need to hold on to a chair or similar for balance. The left knee will be bent to 90 degrees. Ensure that the left knee does NOT extend over the left toe line. Hold for 10 – 15 seconds and then slowly return to the start position using your hands on the thigh to help get you back. Stretch the other leg.


17 – Calves & Hamstrings Stretch
Posture: Sit upright on the edge of a chair.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Calves & Hamstrings.

Sitting on the edge of a chair, body supported by the hands placed at your sides as stabilizers, extend the legs out front with the knees slightly bent.

Extend the toes as far forward as possible, hold for 5 – 8 seconds and then flex the toes as far back as possible for the same 5 – 8 seconds.

Breathe normally by inhaling through the nose & exhaling through the mouth.


18 – Hip & Lower Back Stretch
Posture: Sit upright in a chair with feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hips and Lower Back.

Place the right hand on your right knee. Inhale before turning the upper body and head to the left, the left arm behind the chair, whilst exhaling. Don’t bend the shoulders forward. Keep the upper body upright and relaxed. Hold the extended position for 5 to 8 seconds before turning the body to face forward and repeat to the right side with the right arm now behind the chair.


19 – Thighs (Quadriceps) Stretch
Posture: Lie on your side on the floor.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Thighs (Quadriceps).

This stretch has the same benefit as Stretch # 4, but some that have difficulty with # 4 may find this alternative more comfortable.

Rest your head on say your left hand and bring the right foot up towards the buttocks. Grab hold of the right ankle and slowly pull the heel to the body. An extension of this position is to push the foot away from the body (push the knee backwards) which will increase the stretch. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds each side.


20 - Shoulders, Hips & Back Stretch
Posture: Lie flat on your back with arms stretched fully behind you and feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Shoulders, Hips and Back.

Great as a tension reducer.

Extend both arms behind you. Inhale before reaching as far backwards as possible with say the left arm, allowing the left hip to stretch with it. Exhale as you do the movement. Inhale and relax the left arm and repeat the procedure with the right arm whilst exhaling on the upward stretch. Do at least 10 repetitions on each side.


21 – Inner Thighs & Hamstrings Stretch
Posture: Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Inner Thighs & Hamstrings.

This is an advanced stretch / exercise.

From the upright position with knees slightly bent, move slowly to the right side. Keep the left leg static and ensure that the right knee does not over-ride the right toe.

Hold for a few seconds & move across to the left side. It is important to keep the abdominals firm for better balance and control of the movement. Don’t bend the upper body forward.


22 a – Ankles Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched

Muscle Groups: Ankles

Sit upright in a chair and cross one leg over the other with the knee extended to the side – see photo.This is the start position.


22 b & c – Ankles Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Ankles

Sit upright in a chair and cross one leg over the other with the knee extended to the side – see photo.

Now extend the toe of the crossed foot and then flex it up & back. Hold each position for a few seconds. Do 8 – 10 repetitions and change legs.

The second photo illustrates the ankle being inwards and outwards (side to side).


23 – Calves & Hamstrings Stretch
Posture: Lie flat on your back.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Calves & Hamstrings.

From the lying position, raise say the right leg keeping it as straight as possible. The height to which the leg can be lifted will vary depending on many factors. Once you have reached your limit, hold on to the knee (or even the pants being worn) to hold it as high as possible for at least 15 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. The hamstrings are a very important muscle group to keep strong and in shape.


24 – Hamstrings & Gluteus Stretch
Posture: Sit upright.

Breathing: In through nose. Exhale from mouth.

Relax: Concentrate on muscles being stretched.

Muscle Groups: Hamstrings & Gluteus.

Lift say the right knee with the help of the hands gripped under the knee as shown, as high as possible. Inhale before lifting the knee and exhale on the way up. Hold for 15 – 20 seconds and repeat on the other leg.