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updated: 4/22/2013 6:26 AM

Exercises to strengthen your legs

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Tampa Bay Times

Step-Ups: Strengthen quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Place a 6- to 8-inch step or bench near a sturdy chair or wall for support, if needed. Holding weights, place right foot on step. Straighten right leg without locking the knee, allowing left leg to hang freely. Hold for a count of 4, then slowly step back down, repeating 10 to 12 times. Change legs and repeat, working toward two sets of 12 with each leg.

Quad stretch: Stretches both quadriceps and hip flexors. Lying on your side with knees bent and supported by lower arm, place one hand on ankle or top of foot. Slowly bring foot toward your buttocks, holding stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, repeating on other side. Perform stretch two or three times for each leg.

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Seated hamstring stretch: Sitting on a bench or sitting on a chair with one foot placed on another chair in front of you, stretch out one leg, keeping other foot on floor. Sit tall, leaning forward from hips until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of leg; avoid rounding forward. Hold 15 to 30 seconds, repeating the stretch two or three times on each leg. To deepen stretch, place hands on ankle or flexed foot; gently move forward from hips.

IT (Iliotibial) band stretch: This band of fibrous tissue works with the thigh muscles to provide stability for the knee joint when you are moving, attaching at the hip and traveling down the side of the leg to the knee. Keeping the IT band flexible helps to prevent knee pain. With knees slightly relaxed, cross right leg over left leg, placing right hand on hip for support. With left arm lifted, lean slightly to the right, gently pressing left hip out to the side. You should feel the stretch down the side of your leg.

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