Lower Body Stretching Exercises

Stretching out your lower body can prevent lower back pain and greatly enhance freedom of movement in the hip joints. In addition to contributing to a slouching posture, sitting for long hours at a time leads to inflexibility in the hips, tightness in the lower back, the buttocks, hamstrings, and calves.

Wearing high heels regularly also contributes to tight calves. If you like wearing high heels, try to vary your heel heights. For example, one day wear high heels, the next day wear flats, and on the third day, wear a medium-high heel. Be sure to stretch out your calves at the end of the day and do toe taps to keep your shins strong.

STANDING CALF STRETCH

Figure 12-4 The standing calf stretch stretches the back of the lower leg and improves ankle flexibility.

GET SET Stand in a long split stance with feet hip-width apart. Place hands on mid-thigh of forward leg for support. Avoid putting any pressure on your knee joint.

ACTION Push heel of back leg into ground as you straighten leg and lengthen torso. Feel the stretch in the back of your lower leg. (SEE FIGURE 12-4.) Keep abdominals tight to support lower back. Increase the stretch by sliding your heel further back.

WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Slide back foot only as far back as you can keep your heel touching the ground. Keep your back foot parallel to your front foot and lengthen behind your knee. Avoid pointing toes outward. Shorten stance if necessary to keep foot pointing forward.

LYING HAMSTRING STRETCH

Figure 12-5 The lying hamstring stretch releases muscular tightness in the back of the upper leg. If the foot is flexed, it also stretches the back of the lower leg.

GET SET Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on ground. Draw right knee toward chest with hands behind upper thigh. Straighten leg without locking knee joint and lengthen leg upward through heel.

ACTION Draw top of thigh toward chest. Feel stretch in the back of your upper leg. (SEE FIGURE 12-5.)

WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Exhale as you deepen the stretch. Flex foot to increase stretch in back of lower leg.

SIDE-LYING HIP FLEXORS AND QUADRICEPS STRETCH

Figure 12-6 The side-lying hip flexors and quadriceps stretch stretches the front of the hip and the thigh.

GET SET Lie on your side with your bottom arm extended as a support for your head. Place a strap or your hand around your foot or ankle. Tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your pelvis in a neutral position to provide support for your lower back and to prevent arching.

ACTION Bend the knee of your top leg as you draw your heel toward the buttocks. Feel the stretch in the front of your hip and thigh. (SEE FIGURE 12-6.)

WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Keep both knees parallel to each other. Be sure to feel the stretch in the front of the hip and thigh. If you feel any strain in your knee, ease up on the stretch until you feel it only in the muscle.

DEEP BUTTOCKS STRETCH

Figure 12-7 The deep buttocks stretch stretches the deep muscles of the buttocks and hips and can help prevent sciatica (shooting pains in the back of the legs).

GET SET Lie on your back with knees bent. Pull your right knee toward your chest and place your right ankle on top of your left thigh. Your leg configuration resembles a number 4. Place both hands around back of your left thigh.

ACTION Pull your left thigh toward chest. Feel stretch deep in the buttocks and hips. (SEE FIGURE 12-7.)

WEDDING WORKOUT POINTERS Because this muscle area tends to be tight, ease gently into your stretch. This stretch can prevent or relieve sciatica due to pressure of tight muscles against the sciatic nerve.

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