Flexibility — Stretches for Common Leg Problems

This is the second installment on flexibility for cyclists and runners. I know I have had some serious deterioration in my flexibility since I broke my elbow, but the good news is I have some fantastic stretches for this week. The focus of this week’s installment will be on your upper quads and your glutes.

Assumptions

I am assuming you are a regular cyclist or runner who wants to improve their flexibility. You should know how to not injure yourself while stretching by warming up and easing into a stretch. You should also know that with all stretches, you should engage the muscle group opposite of the targeted muscle group so as to decrease the chance for injury. I would also like to think you are an athlete who is looking for ways to improve their performance through improved flexibility.

Let’s get down to it.

Hip Stretch
This stretch will improve the flexibility of your glutes and piriformis. Last week we had a similar stretch that was performed from a sitting position, but this one will stretch many of the same muscles from a different position.

To perform this stretch, you should lay down on the group and bend one leg so that the knee is at about a 90 degree angle while the foot is still on the floor. Take your other foot and cross it over your knee, like you would if you were sitting in a chair, like this:


Then reach both hands through and grab in this case is the left leg right below your knee, and pull your knee towards your chest. Hold a position that is slightly uncomfortable, breathe into the muscle, and pull your knee slightly closer to your chest, like this:


I like this stretch because it helps me on both the bike and running. It helps me get more aero on my bike by letting me get further down into my aerobars on my tri bike or in a more aggressive position on my road bike. When running it helps me increase my stride length, making me more efficient. Overall, this is a fantastic stretch that will help you in both disciplines.

Great Quad Stretch
I am not sure what this next stretch is called as I have heard it given lots of names. All I know is it will stretch your quads so deep you will think your quads have never been stretched before. Here is the starting position:


Drop to one knee with the top of your foot on the ground on your leg you have extended backwards. The front knee should be at about a 90 degree angle. Make sure you keep your knee positioned above your forward ankle and your back stays straight. Now move your hips forward, pushing your forward knee in front of the ankle. Keep your back leg still and you will begin to feel the stretch in your quads and some in your groin. Here is how you should look when you start to go deeper:


You will really find our how flexible your quads are with this stretch. You should also rest your hands on your forward knee for stability.

Hip Flexor and Knee Extensor Stretch
If you are returning to running from a recent hiatus or you are upping your mileage, sometimes shin splints happen. Let’s face it, we have all had them at one time or another and man do they hurt. I will get them from time to time and have various remedies that have worked, but this stretch can really help alleviate the pain that is associated with shin splints.

Start this stretch by lying on one side of your body and support your head by bending your arm and placing it under your head, like this:


Like a quad stretch, take your top leg and bend it back. Grab your ankle with your hand and pull your ankle towards your butt. You should be thrusting your hips forward at the same time and this is where you will feel your stretch. Here is what it should look like:


To feel it in your shins, make sure you get that ankle bent so that you feel the stretch in the front of your lower leg.

Conclusion
Next week I think I am going to cover lower back and trap stretches, the two areas that seem to scream at me when I am biking long distances. Make sure you check back early next week to see how to improve your flexibility in those areas.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...