It's that time again! Today we talk about flexibility in the backs of the legs (calves, hamstrings, and glutes). Hamstrings can become tight from being stationary for long periods of time, such as sitting and writing all day (I do get up every once in a while to make sure my legs don't get too inflexible) or having a desk job. They can also get tight from previous injuries or from an imbalance in quad and hamstring strength.
When you exercise, you want to make sure that you are working both the agonist and antagonist muscles. If you are strengthening the quadriceps and neglecting the hamstrings, you will most likely have little flexibility and very little strength. This can cause knee problems so please make sure you are balancing your leg workouts.
If you have ever had a hamstring strain or pull, it is very common to be vulnerable to another strain/pull for up to 6 months after the first. When this happens, you want to make sure that you are not stretching too far, if you feel pulling or pain, you need to stop. Make sure you are strengthening your hamstrings and gently stretching them afterward.
You can also use a tennis ball to massage the bottoms of your feet to increase flexibility up the back of your legs. The ball loosens tight nerves that run up your legs, causing inflexibility. Even though stretching is great, I recommend using massage techniques as they are less likely to cause injury from overstretching.
Calves are pretty hardy muscles but they can be inflexible sometimes. Usually inflexibility in the calves is caused by a previous injury or from immobility from a desk job, for example. To increase flexibility, you need to first, increase the range of motion (ROM) in your ankles. You should also try some static stretches to lengthen the calves.
The gluteal muscles can become inflexible from overuse. Because overuse is the most common cause, you want to make sure that you are not over-exercising and that you are stretching afterward. Foam rolling can help increase circulation and loosen the muscle fibers in this area, increasing flexibility. Try some of these stretches to increase flexibility in your glutes.
I hope this helps with your flexibility gains. Let me know if any of these stretches and massage techniques have worked for you. I would also love to see before and after photos if you would like to share. Hopefully I will do a post with your before and afters at the end of this series.
Until next time,