Flexibility in the muscles of the hip and thigh are critical to hip mobility and stride length during in track and field. Having adequate flexibility of upper leg muscles allows athletes to extend their stride and produce forceful muscle contractions to increase their speed during training and competition. Appropriate amounts of muscular flexibility is also essential for injury prevention; inadequate muscular flexibility is commonly a contributing factor in strained, torn and even ruptured thigh muscles. Runners need to pay particular attention to their hamstring quadriceps and hip flexor (iliopsoas) muscle groups.
A hamstring stretch can be completed in standing, sitting and laying down positions. To stretch the hamstrings muscle group, keep your leg straight and flex your hip until you have the sensation of tension in the back of your thigh as pictured below. When performing this as well as other stretches, do not push to the point of pain as this can result in injury.
The quadriceps muscle group can be stretched by standing on one leg and pulling the opposite heel towards your buttocks as pictured to the left. While completing this stretch it is important to keep your knees and thighs together as well as the calf of your stretched leg in line with the thigh of the same leg (not twisted out to the side). Pulling your leg out to the side and twisting your knee while completing this stretch places unhealthy stress on the knee joint. It is also important to avoid arching your back engage your abdominal muscles.
The iliopsoas is active during running. It contracts when you bring your leg forward during your stride and is stretched as the opposite leg is advanced. The iliopsoas can be stretched in a half knee position as shown in the picture to the left. When stretching this muscle, it is important to avoid arching your back by engaging your abdominal muscles to maintain upright posture as you shift your weight forward.
All stretches should be completed after a brief warm up. Stretches should be held for between 10-30 seconds. Hold the stretch position for a longer interval to increase flexibility and for a shorter interval if you are trying to maintain the flexibility you already have.