Time and again at the chiropractic clinic and in my other training roles, I find that most people are very quad dominant and have poor ankle flexibility in one way or another. These tendencies lead to tight quads and calves oftentimes and can severely hinder the posterior chain. Tight quads take tension easier in movements than inactive glutes and hamstrings while tight calves can cause tension behind the knee, limiting the flexibility of the distal end of the hamstring. A simple stretch can begin to alleviate these issues.
First, kneel on your knees with your feet and toes pulled under you toward your shins. Sit tall in your torso and sit your glutes onto your heels. This position closes the knee, stretching the quad. It also will stretch the big toe into dorsiflexion, another common issue. This ankle position will stretch the calves in dorsiflexion as well.
Next, try setting your feet flat against the ground so the tops of your feet are facing the floor. Sit tall in the torso and sit the glutes onto the heels. This pushes the ankle into plantar flexion and will stretch your shin muscles.
Gotten cozy in these positions? Let’s make it harder. Now, instead of sitting tall in your torso, lean back with a straight back. I highly advise having support behind you (I kneel in front of the couch so my back contacts the cushions when I lean back) so you don’t go further than you can handle. This will open the hip, adding to the quad stretch, particularly on the rectus femoris muscle. If you find your low back arching too much, keep your core tight before leaning back. Some isolated hip flexor stretches would also be useful.
Give these simple at-home stretches a go to open things up efficiently for you! Proceed with caution if you have knee issues and consult with the appropriate medical professional if you have pre-existing conditions which may require further personalization of these positions.