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Stretching benefits people of all fitness levels.
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Stretching your legs can help reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow to the area, which can help you recover more quickly from injuries. Stretching may also decrease your risk of being injured in the first place. It can also increase your range of motion and help loosen up tense muscles, reducing muscle pain and allowing you to perform better on the playing field and enjoy your exercise time more. According to the American Council on Exercise, stretching can also reduce psychological tension and help you relax.
Stretching cold muscles can actually cause muscle injuries, so always warm up before stretching. Try walking or swimming for five to 10 minutes or incorporate dynamic stretches into your routine. Dynamic stretches are stretches that move your muscles, rather than holding them in a stretched position, and include stretches such as ankle rolls.
Stretching your ankles helps strengthen muscles -- such as your calves, tibialis anterior and fibularis tertius -- and can improve joint mobility. Try ankle rolls. Start in a sitting position, either on the floor or in a chair, with your foot and lower leg unsupported by the floor or a piece of furniture. Move your foot in a clockwise circle 10 times, then switch directions and rotate counterclockwise. Next, try spelling the letters of the alphabet or specific words with your foot. Picking up small objects, such as marbles or wadded paper, with your toes, can also help stretch your ankles and improve mobility. Aim for two to three minutes of ankle stretches
Stretching the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles of your calves can reduce joint pain and muscle tension in your ankles and knees. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out and flex your feet back as far as they can comfortably go. Then hold for 30 seconds. Next, stretch your Achilles tendon. Keep one leg straight while sitting on the floor and bend the knee of the other leg. With your hand or an exercise band, pull the foot of the bent leg in toward your rear, with only your heel on the ground. Pull the top of your foot toward your torso and hold for 30 seconds, then switch feet. Finally, try a standing calf stretch. Stand up straight facing a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position your hands on the wall, elevated slightly above your shoulders. Step back with your right leg so that your rear leg is 2 to 3 feet behind your front leg and lean forward, bending your knees rather than your hips. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides, this time stepping back with your left leg.
Stretching the quadriceps and hamstrings can improve knee and hip mobility. Stretch your quadriceps by lying on your side with your legs straight. Bend the knee of your top leg, grabbing your foot with your hand and pulling your foot toward your rear. Hold for 30 seconds, then roll over and switch legs. Repeat two to three times. Next, stretch your hamstrings by sitting on the floor with your feet extended straight in front of you. Extend your torso over your legs, reaching for your toes until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times.
The hip flexors begin in your hips and extend down into your thighs, so tension in these muscles can cause leg, hip and even back pain. To stretch these muscles, sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet touching. Pull your feet in toward your groin until you feel a stretch, then hold for 30 seconds, repeating once or twice. Next, place a towel or cushion on the ground. Bend one knee and place this knee on the towel. Bend your other knee, placing your foot on the floor. Keep your spine straight and lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides, repeating the stretch on each side two to three times.