To keep your feet and lower back pain-free, add these 5 essential stretches to your daily routine. They target muscles typically prone to injury and pain. They’re easy, and can take as little as 5 minutes. Give them a try!

Achilles Soleus Stretch

1. Achilles Soleus Stretch

What structures does the Achilles Soleus Stretch target?

This stretch targets the Achilles Tendon, Soleus and the Posterior Joint Capsule .

How to perform stretch:

  1. Get down on all fours
  2. Place one foot in front of the other (similar to a sprinter in the starting blocks)
  3. Your front foot should be flat on the floor
  4. Your back foot should have the top against the floor (as indicated)
  5. Lower your buttocks towards that ground

Stretch Benefits:

This exercise is very effective for relieving tightness in the calves or Achilles tendon especially after sports activities comprising of hopping, hurdling, jumping from heights, climbing uphill etc. Also useful for the treatment of shin splints and are recommended after aerobics or step dance classes.

Regular Movement:

The ankle should bend to the maximum limit so that one feels pressure at the front of the ankle and tension in the calf. The normal range of dorsiflexion (upward bending) of the ankle is approximately 20 degrees from the normal standing position. Further flexion is restricted by tension in the calf muscles.

2. Soleus, Calf, Plantar Fascia Stretch

What muscles does the Soleus, Calf, Plantar fascia stretch target?

This stretch targets the Achilles Tendon, Soleus, Long Flexors of the toes (Flexor Hallucis Longus and Flexor Digitorum Longus), Plantar Fascia This stretch targets the deep calf muscle and the structures that cross from the calf to the plantar surface of the foot.

How to perform stretch:

  1. Stand close to a wall with your legs one in front of the other as shown
  2. Rest the toes of the front foot against a wall with your heel on the ground and your knee bent
  3. Gently push your knee towards the wall until a stretching feeling can be felt low down in the calf muscle and towards the inside of the shin

Advantages:This is a great stretch to relieve the stiffness or pain in the Achilles tendon or in the lower legs. It is especially recommended after climbing, jumping, hurdling, leaping and other such activities that require too much push-off. It is also helpful in the treatment of Plantar Fasciitis (pain in the heel or sole) and Shin Splints (pain along or just behind the tibia).

Regular Range of Movement:The ankle stretches to cover its maximum range of movement; one feels compression at its front. The stretching of the calf muscle limits the flexion of the ankle. Usually the total range of ankle dorsiflexion is about 20 degrees from the neutral position, which is when the foot lies perpendicular to tibia. The stretch should tighten the arch, the plantar fascia and the ligaments of the foot. The range of toe flexion is approximately 54-73 degrees.

Hip and Thigh Stretch

3. Hip & Thigh Stretch

What muscles does the hip and thigh stretch target?

This stretch targets the Rectus Femoris and Illiopsoas

How to perform stretch:

  1. Stand with your feet split and lower your back knee to the ground as per the image
  2. Keep your stomach tight and flat
  3. Lean forward from your hips

Advantages:Hip flexor group aids in lifting the leg by flexing it towards pelvis, during activities like climbing stairs, simple walking, running, marching, kicking etc. Along with this, it bends the trunk towards the leg and therefore plays an important role in performing abdominal curls or in sitting up from lying position. Inordinate use of these muscles without proper stretching leads to shortening of the muscles. Also sitting for long durations when the muscles do not stretch properly to the total extent causes the same problem. A number of low back problems respond well to the stretching of these muscles; stretching especially helps in relaxing a stiff lumbar spine.

Normal Range of Movement:With the pelvis swaying backwards, the hip is able to move beyond the knee level. Hip joint can extend to about 10-30 degrees when pelvis is in neutral position. Checking for the Length of Muscles: The person lies face upward on a table, the knees reaching the edge of the table. When one knee is rolled and grasped against the chest, the other knee should keep a right angle with the lower leg suspending down the table. The thigh also should stay in contact with the surface of the table. In case, the Rectus Femoris muscle is tight the knee would extend. The shortness of Tensor Fascia Lata is confirmed byabduction of the thigh and if the thigh does not remain in touch with the table surface, the cause is shortness of Iliopsoas that only is involved with movement at the hip joint. Shortness of hip flexors is also demonstrated by lumbar lordosis (an inward curvature of the lower back) with pelvis tilting forward.

Deep Gluteal Buttock Stretch

4. Deep Gluteal Buttock Stretch

What muscles does the deep gluteal buttock stretch target?

This stretch targets the gluteals and deep hip

How to perform stretch:

  1. Lay on stomach, one leg straight and one bent and crossed over as per image
  2. Bend forward and touch hands on ground
  3. Bend chest further forward to add intensity to stretch

Advantages:The stretch is useful for conditioning hip and thigh muscles as it lengthens the Gluteal muscles, the upper part of Hamstrings as well as the backside of the hip joint capsule. This preconditioning helps in consequent stretching of the entire Hamstrings. It is a great exercise to relieve tension in the back, a usual complaint associated with lower back problems, and to enhance the flexibility of the hip joint. Makes it easy to bend, climb or kick.

Regular Movement:With the knee turning out, the lower part of the leg is brought near the chest. This action both flexes and externally rotates the hip. With the knee flexed, the hip can flex to a maximum of 120-135 degrees. The maximum range to which a flexed hip can rotate externally is normally between 45-60 degrees.Bend chest further forward to add intensity to stretch

5. Lumbar Extension Stretch

What muscles does the lumbar extension stretch target?

This stretch targets the Lumbar Spine andAbdominals

How to perform stretch:

  1. Lie flat on your stomach
  2. Push shoulders upwards

Advantages:This stretch loosens the inner structures in the abdominal and pelvic region. Therefore, it is profoundly beneficial for people who have to stay crouched for hours daily or who suffer from lower back problems particularly those having stiffness in the lumbar spine and/or pelvic area. It may also prove helpful in leveling the posterior lumbar disc bulge and is often used in its treatment.

Regular Movement:This stretch can extend the lumbar spine up to 20 – 30 degrees, against the anterior longitudinal ligament. The greatest movement occurs normally between L4 – S1, while L5- S1 is usually stiff and unyielding. It also extends the hip joint up to 10 – 30 degrees, with the pelvis held steady.