5 essential hip ankle stretches for athletes

5 Essential Hip & Ankle Stretches For Athletes

Keeping your body in top condition is essential for you to succeed in the industry. When it comes to exercising many people forget to stretch afterwards, this therefore causes the muscles to tense up and increases the effect of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Stretching can also prevent further injuries after exercising and help speed up the recovery process.

Sports such as Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Running and even lifting heavy weights, can all be affected by tense and tight muscles. Even if you describe yourself as a regular to stretching, most of time it can be due to the lack of knowledge towards the technique of the stretches that can cause harm. Learning the correct stretches for specific muscles, can help you understand your own body, and how to help relieve those tight areas that are causing pain. Even the strongest man needs to stretch; flexibility & strength come as a pair, you can be flexible however you have no strength and vice versa. You need to find the balance between both to ensure you are gaining the most out of your body and training.

There are many athletes that visit me at the StretchLAB (a 1-on-1 assisted stretching studio, based in central London), and with those I always see a pattern in certain areas of their muscles where they feel tightness or pain. The hips are one area that many people need help with to relieve that tension and tightness. For stunt performers, taking impact on the legs has an effect on the ankle mobility which can cause a lot of tightness for some. There are many stretches that will help open those hips and relieve the ankles from the tightness, below are 5 essential ones that you should try!

Kneeling Front Bend Stretch

Stretches the hip flexors & adductors.

Kneeling Front Bend Stretch 1
Kneeling Front Bend Stretch 2
  • Kneel onto the floor with both legs together, back in neutral and keeping your core engaged. (Place a pillow or a soft blanket under your knees if you have any discomfort or knee injuries).
  • Extend one leg out to the side of the body, keeping the hips facing forward and the leg straight to the side (Neither in front nor behind you).
  • Placing both hands on the floor in front of you.
  • Slowly sliding the extended leg further away from the body to reach your ultimate stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Lunge Hip Flexor Stretch

Stretches the hip flexors, quadriceps & glutes.

lunge hip flexor stretch

  • Kneeling with both legs on the floor. Bring one foot flat on the floor in front of the body and bending the knee (Keeping the knee bent at a 90° angle – knee in line with your toes).
  • Lean towards the front leg and guiding your opposite hip towards the floor. To deepen the stretch, squeeze the glute muscles.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Frog Stretch

Stretches the hip flexors, adductors & glutes.

frog stretch

  • Similar to the Kneeling Front Bend Stretch, start by kneeling onto the floor with both legs together, back in neutral and keeping your core engaged.
  • Placing both feet together.
  • Placing your hands on the floor in front for support.
  • Slowly start to separate the knees outwards into the frog position, keeping the feet together. (Frog legs or a Diamond Shape with your legs depending on your flexibility). Widen the legs until you feel the ultimate stretch along the inside of your legs.
  • To deepen the stretch, you can keep your hands down or place your elbows down. You can also open up the feet to be in line with your knees in a 90° angle on the floor.
  • Hold the stretch for 1-2 minutes.

Straight Leg Spinal Twist Stretch

Stretches the Soleus, Gastrocnemius & Peroneal Muscles.

Straight Leg Spinal Twist Stretch 1
Straight Leg Spinal Twist Stretch 2
  • Sit down on the floor with both legs straight in front.
  • Hold the bottom of the foot with your opposite hand. Placing it on the inside of the foot not the outside.
  • Slowly tilt the foot towards the opposite side (If you are holding the foot with your left hand, you tilt the foot towards the left).
  • Start to rotate the body towards the working leg, keeping a hold of the foot that is tilting the foot.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Standing Calf & Achilles Stretch

Stretches the Soleus, Gastrocnemius & Achilles tendon.

standing calf achilles stretch

  • Stand facing a wall, stairs or a chair (which ever might be more useful for you).
  • Extend one foot in front of you onto the wall, flexing the foot with the toes pointing up.
  • Slowly leaning towards the wall/stairs/chair until you feel the ultimate stretch up the calf & Achilles.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Once you are used to the technique of each stretch, slowly take them a little further and hold them for longer periods. This way you will have a higher benefit from each of the stretches. It is recommended that you stretch every day to keep the body mobile and loose, even if you can only manage 10 minutes. Through combining stretching and exercise, your body will go further, and you will be able to train harder.

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This article was written by Giovana Braia. You can read more of Giovana’s articles and learn about her specialist areas and experiences using the link below.
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