When my legs are really sore—which is often—a mere static stretch just isn’t going to do much. To really make tight muscles go ‘ahhhhh‘ with delight, experts recommend going at them with a combination of two different methods: both stretching and foam rolling.
This is especially the case with your leg muscles, since they’re prone to tightness from not only working out but sitting at a desk all day. “The best combo is to foam roll, stretch, and then perform an activation drill of the focused muscle group,” says Corinne Croce, physical therapist and co-founder of Bodyevolved.
If your goal is to have liquid legs (*raises hand*), foam rolling and stretching work together as a one-two punch on your fascia—the connective tissue between your muscles—and leave the targeted area much less tense. The key thing to remember as you go through the recovery drills? “Synchronize your breathing will all movements,” says Dr. Croce. Keep scrolling for her recommended muscle relieving stretching and foam rolling combos for three of the most commonly tight muscles in your lower body.
1. Foam roll the glute by placing your foam roller under one butt cheek, crossing that same leg over the other in a figure-four position. Begin rolling on the glute, finding any spots of increased tissue tension, knots, or achy spots, and work those areas using small up and down, side-to-side motions. Work each area for 30 seconds, covering the entire glute. Repeat on the other side.
2. Get into a figure-four stretch on your back by crossing one knee over the other. Pull the uncrossed leg close to the chest, stretching the glute on the crossed leg side. Hold up to two minutes.
3. Perform eight to 10 bridges. Lay on the ground with your feet flat about a foot away from your glutes. Squeeze your glutes to lift your butt as high as you can while maintaining a neutral spine, and hold for five seconds. Here’s how to do bridges the right way, below.
1. Foam roll each calf by placing one calf on the foam roller and crossing the other leg over it to increase the pressure. Begin rolling on the calf. up and down and side-to-side, finding any spots of increased tissue tension, knots, or achy spots. Work those areas using smaller up and down, side-to-side motions. Work each area for 30 seconds, covering the entire calf. Do the same thing on the other side.
2. Stretch by placing one foot on a wall with your toes up towards the ceiling, keep your other leg planted with the heel down. Drive your weight forward while keeping your spine neutral, feeling a stretch in the foot against the wall. Hold up to two minutes. Repeat on the other side.
3. Perform eight to 10 single-leg calf raises on each side. Stand tall while facing a wall and lift one foot off the ground to balance on one leg. Place your hands on the wall for added balance. Raise your body up onto the toe of the standing leg, fully contracting the calf on the foot-down leg. Repeat on the other side.
1. Foam roll your quad by lying face down on the ground with one thigh on the foam roller. Begin rolling on the quad up-and-down and side-to-side, finding any spots of increased tissue tension, knots, or achy spots, and work those areas using smaller up and down, side-to-side motions. Hold the tenser spot and do three to four knee bends (flex and extend). Work each area for 30 seconds, covering the entire quad. Do the same thing on the other side.
2. For a quad stretch, stand tall, close to a wall. Using one hand to balance, bend the other knee, driving the foot toward the buttocks and use your free hand to grab it to stretch the quad. Keep your abdominals braced and squeeze the glute. Hold up to two minutes.
3. Sit on the ground with the foam roller placed horizontally under your knees and your back supported straight against a wall. While driving one leg into the foam roller, contract your quad to lift that same leg and hold for five seconds. Keep the other leg relaxed, abs braced. Perform eight to 10 leg lifts and repeat on other side.
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