Leg stretching is an important exercise for anyone in need of increased flexibility and greater balance in the body. Martial artists often perform several stretching exercises to increase flexibility, as this is important for a higher, more powerful kicks. There are different kinds of leg stretchers available on the market, ranging from simple metal rod stretchers or pulleys to modern leg stretchers with a seat, controls and leg cushions.
Warm up before stretching so the muscles are properly loosened. Stretching without warming up can cause serious injury. Your warm-up should include some form of aerobics, such as jogging or skipping rope. It is also important to perform joint-rotations consisting of slow, circular motions focusing on all areas of your body, one by one. For example, rotate your wrists, ankles, neck and toes clockwise and counter-clockwise.
Sit in the proper position on the floor or on the stretcher itself. Depending on the stretcher, you will either sit directly on the floor with both your feet resting on the ends of stretcher rods or, as in the case of the modern stretcher, on the stretcher seat with both your legs on the stretcher seat. Keep your back straight and propped up.
Pull the lever or the pulley located in the centre of the stretcher. There might be buttons or a wheel to perform this on other modern stretchers. As you do this, the stretcher will start to spread apart with your legs.
Increase the stretch slowly until it reaches your maximum range of motion, which should generally be only a minor level of tension. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. According to Brad Appelton, a martial artist and the author of "Stretching and Flexibility," there is no definitive time to hold a passive stretch, but he recommends holding for 20 seconds.
Take relaxed breaths and exhale as you stretch. Appleton states, "You should be taking slow, relaxed breaths when you stretch, trying to exhale as the muscle is stretching. Some even recommend increasing the intensity of the stretch only while exhaling, holding the stretch in its current position at all other times."
Push your legs against the force of the leg stretcher and contract your muscles. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds and release. Once you contract your muscles and release the stretcher, you will notice an increased limit for stretching.
Repeat the leg stretching routine 2 to 5 times and take rests between each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
Do not bend your back while stretching your legs, as this can cause serious injury.