Stretching is a great way to loosen up tight muscles and get ready for exercise. It’s also a good way to relax after a long day so that you can sleep faster. What’s more, stretching can help reduce muscle soreness following any activity. Although stretching is often thought of as something you should do in the morning or evening, it’s best to do it throughout the day, especially before or after certain activities like working out or playing sports.
Learn how to loosen up your tight lower-body muscles with these simple tips and techniques.
Make sure you warm up.
It’s important to warm up before you work out and after you work out. A warm-up should include five to 10 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging to raise your heart rate and blood flow. You can also do gentle joint rotations before you stretch, especially if you haven’t been active lately. This will help loosen up your joints and prepare them for more vigorous movements later in the workout.
Stretch both sides of the body.
It is important to stretch both sides of the body. Most people tend to focus on one side more than the other, which can lead to muscle imbalances. Stretching helps keep your muscles flexible and loose, preventing injuries and improving overall performance. If you are beginning a stretching routine or have been doing it for a while, start with gentle stretches that don’t hurt and increase your range of motion over time.
Don’t bounce while stretching.
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid any bouncing while stretching. If a muscle is working against the force of gravity and suddenly moves back into place, it can cause injury or even make your muscles tense longer than they should.
Remember to breathe.
While the movements you’ll be doing are easy, it’s still important to remember to breathe. If your muscles are tense and tight, they won’t loosen up if you don’t relax them first. So take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth as you stretch.
It’s also important to breathe slowly and deeply while doing this routine—especially when stretching out at the end of each exercise. Breathe for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then release air from your lungs for another four seconds before inhaling again. This will help calm down any anxiety or nervousness about performing this routine (and it’s also good for general health).
Choose exercises that follow a natural range of motion.
When you stretch, you should focus on moving your joints through a full range of motion. That means don’t overstretch them and don’t make sudden movements that can cause injury or damage the muscle tissue.
With these tips in mind, here are some of the best ways to loosen up tight lower-body muscles:
- Do lunges with the front leg extended straight out in front (don’t bend it!) To do this stretch, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and fold forward from your hips until you feel tension on the front of your hip flexor. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides.
- Do hamstring stretches while lying face down on a mat with both legs behind you—keep both knees bent at 90 degrees, so they stay off the floor (then straighten them if possible). For an added challenge, try raising one leg at a time off the floor while keeping it straight and holding each position for 15 seconds before switching sides.
- Do calf stretches by standing facing a wall and placing one foot forward with toes pointed down until they touch or almost touch (the goal is not touching), then slowly step back against resistance until feeling the tension in your calves.
- For quadriceps stretches (which help relieve knee pain), try kneeling on all fours, then slowly lifting one foot off the ground as far back as possible without hyper-extending any joints; hold for 5-10 seconds, then switch legs.
Take your time with each stretch.
Take your time with each stretch. Stretching too quickly can cause muscle strain, which could lead to injury. Instead of rushing through the routine, do each stretch deliberately until you feel a slight pull in the muscle (but not pain). Hold it for 10 seconds and then release it for 10 seconds before moving on to the next one. Try not to tense up during this process—instead, relax into each stretch and breathe deeply.
Don’t stretch if you’re injured, or it causes pain.
If you have an injury, stop stretching and see a medical professional. If stretching causes pain, then stop immediately. If you feel pain during or after a stretch, rest for several days before trying again.
If you don’t understand what’s going on with your body and how to respond to it, get help from someone who does know—a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor will be able to tell you what’s wrong with your muscles and advise the proper course of action.
After the activity, do static stretches for five to 10 minutes.
Static stretching can also help prevent injury.
It’s important to do static stretches after you’ve been active and just before starting the activity. If you’re doing a high-intensity workout, such as sprints or heavy weight lifting, stretch afterward for five to 10 minutes.
This type of stretching is not necessary to increase your range of motion; instead, it’s about relaxing the muscles and reducing muscle soreness after strenuous workouts or strenuous jobs that require lots of sitting (like working at a computer).
To do this type of static stretching:
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds at least once in each direction (10 seconds per side). Ideally, if possible, you’ll repeat each stretch three times on each side! The more often you squeeze in these short workouts throughout your day (and week), the better off your body will be.
Find a spot that provides good support and balance, such as a chair or wall.
- Find a spot that provides good support and balance, such as a chair or wall. The more stable you feel in this position, your stretching will improve. Knee upright with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Bend at the hips and place both hands on either thigh; keep your back straight as you breathe deeply into each exhale until you feel relaxed (about ten deep breaths).
Final thoughts on how to loosen up your tight lower-body muscles
Now that you know how to do a proper lower-body stretch get out there and start stretching! Don’t forget to take your time with each stretch, and don’t overdo it. Remember that it’s important not to stretch if you’ve been injured or if pain occurs when stretching. If this happens, stop immediately and seek medical attention from a licensed healthcare provider.