What Muscles to Stretch

It's best to do your stretches in groups of muscles. For example, after a run, concentrate on the glutes (buttocks and hips), the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the plantar fascia (tissues in the foot). You can do them in a circuit — glutes, then hamstrings, and so on, in turn one by one — or simply do the requisite reps for each muscle before moving on to the next. Do what feels best to you.

For the gluteus muscles (minimus, medius, and maximus), sit on the floor or ground and cross your legs. Lean forward and feel the stretches. Hold for twenty to thirty seconds. Repeat one or two times more.

For the hamstrings, if you are at home, put your foot on a chair, keeping your leg straight, and lean forward. Hold for twenty to thirty seconds, then do the other leg. Do both legs two or three times. If you are outside, put your foot on your car bumper or a park bench.

For the calf muscles, put both hands on a wall or a tree and extend one leg back, keeping the sole of your foot completely on the ground. Lean in to create some tension in the calf and hold for twenty to thirty seconds. Do two or three repetitions on both legs.

To stretch the plantar fascia in your foot, stand on a step with the ball of your foot and let your heel down.

Foot Stretch: Stand with the balls of both feet on a stair. Reach for the bottom step with one heel until the stretch is felt through the arch of the foot. Hold for twenty seconds, three reps, three times a day.

A great postrun stretch can be accomplished by using a yoga pose known as Downward Facing Dog. Make an inverted V with your body, hands and feet planted on the ground or floor and your head down. This accomplishes most of the stretches you need for your backside in one step: glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles, Achilles tendon, lower back, lats (latissimus dorsi), and shoulder muscles.

Downward Dog: Hold for one minute, two to three reps.

After swimming, put your hand in a doorway and hold onto it. With your left arm in the doorway, turn your body to the right. With the right arm, turn your body to the left. This stretches the pectoral muscles and the front of the arm.

As with other aspects of your training, feel will guide you. It's not uncommon for one side of your body to be tighter than the other. If that is the case, do more stretching on the tighter side.

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