Commander's Fit Tip: It's time to do a little leg work
By Col. Michael Panarisi, AEDC/PA
/ Published January 11, 2011
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
Now that we've fixed our tight hamstrings, let's take on the rest of the legs.
Fortunately, the quads, shins, and calves don't seem to tighten up like the hams, so these areas usually represent more of a maintenance challenge than a campaign to restore lost flexibility. A few easy moves and you can keep the rest of your legs from becoming a problem.
The quads offer the easiest lever for stretching (everything below your knee!) but I've seen some scary attempts at quad stretches.
Nearly all involve "pulling" on your ankle, but injury risks abound if you get the angles wrong or if you are standing up (like nearly all quad poses require) a tumble can cause quite a setback.
So the fix here is simple...get horizontal! Lie down on your stomach, keep your knees together, reach back and gently pull your heel towards your glutes.
No more bouncing around on the other foot, no hip issues, and an easy gauge on your progress.
If you can get your heel to touch your glutes, there's likely no tightness in the quads to worry about. The problem with the standing, one-footed approach is a big tendency to pull your knees apart, negating the stretch motion and wrenching your hip flexors.
If you just can't get on the ground, then focus on keeping your knees together and use opposing arms (pull up on your left ankle with your right hand) to help keep everything lined up.
And standing next to a wall, a pole, or a partner for stability will eliminate the wobbles.
Calves are easy too, with lots of options.
My favorite is the "over the stair" heel drop.
Start off "two footed" until you get the hang of this one.
Start with a "calf raise" and then gently lower your heels until you feel the stretch.
As you relax, the load will tug on your calf, and it's an easy wait. As you gain confidence, switch to "one-footers" and soon you'll have the calves as loose as ever.
Shins are a little tougher, and often overlooked.
Again, getting horizontal is the key.
First, a little "loosening up." Start by lying on your back, and lift your leg to near vertical. Then rotate your foot around a circle, at full range of motion, clockwise and counter clockwise.
About 20 cycles in each direction should do it.
Then, the tricky part.
To stretch your shins, you have to "point your toes," and for most of us, our calves do that work.
But typically the calves aren't strong enough to really get a good stretch in, so we need some leverage. For this move, you'll need a mat, or at least a softer surface (grass etc).
Then kneel down, and "sit on your heels" keeping your feet straight (they'll tend to rotate outward).
A gentle rocking motion left and right will add a little leverage, and you should feel your shins as you lean back a little.
These easy moves really work, and can keep the "achies" at bay when you really amp up the workouts.
Remember the "rules" and you'll have noodle legs in no time.