Welcome to some of my favorite leg stretches!
Do you want to do the splits again (or even for the very first time!)? Do you want an effective sequence of stretches to cool down after a run? Or, do you experience posture issues out of sitting too much? Regardless of your stretching goals, I got you covered with these 12 amazing leg and thigh stretches!
First, I’ll go over the leg stretches and then I’ll show you how to combine them in 3 different leg stretching routines depending on whether you’re a runner, want to work on your flexibility, or sit a lot each day.
Table of Contents
How can I stretch my legs?
First, you’ll warm up and follow my safe stretching guidelines below. Then, it’s time to do the work! I’ll go through the complete and proper form for each one of the leg stretches when I describe each one.
Then, I’ve grouped the leg and thigh stretches into 3 separate routines for you to serve your specific goals. You can try a few of them – or all of them! Stretching is supposed to be fun.
Safe stretching guidelines for legs and thighs.
Stretching is awesome as long as you don’t injure yourself while doing it. I speak from personal experience here. In the past I used to re-injure myself because of inappropriate stretching so I am sensitive to the proper form and stretching technique issue.
- Warm-up first. Do your workout first, or this home cardio routine. At the very least, go for a walk or do some squats.
- Never feel pain.
- Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.
- The first 10 seconds of a stretch is the “easy stretch”. You can push a little further afterwards.
- Do two sets of each stretch (or more!). You will find you can go further with each set.
- If you’re specifically aiming for flexibility, then perform the flexibility stretching routine at least 4 times a week.
Let’s get started!
The 12 best leg stretches & thigh stretches for running, flexibility, and range of motion for people who sit a lot daily.
1. Groin Stretch
Sit down with back straight and your feet a comfortable distance apart. Open your legs a little more so that you feel a slight stretch in your groin area. Once you feel more comfortable in this position lean a little forward from your hips. Feel the stretch and hold this position.
2. Straddle Hamstring Stretch
With a bent torso, bring your chest toward your knee while reaching for the outside of your foot without bending your knee. Once you feel comfortable, lean forward a little bit more. If you can’t reach your foot the first time, focus on reaching toward your knee. Repeat for the other leg.
3. Straight Bent Leg Stretch
Sit down with one leg straight and the other knee bent with the sole of the bent leg touching the inner thigh of the straight leg. Slowly bend forward from the the hips until you feel a slight stretch. Hold this position. Once the tension eases up lean a little bit more forward. Hold this position a little longer and repeat for other leg.
4. Classic Calf Stretch
Step one foot forward and the opposite foot back, while keeping your feet parallel. Bend your front knee and press through the heel of the other foot. Hold for 20-30 sec. Repeat for the other side.
5. Floor Quad Stretch
Lie on your side resting your head on your hand. Your lower leg is slightly bent. Bend your upper leg and hold the your upper foot with your hand. Gently pull the heel toward you to feel the stretch on the front of your upper leg. Hold this position. Then move the front of you’re your upper hip forward. Hold this position for a few seconds. Repeat for other side.
6. Hamstrings Stretch
Sit down with your legs straight and feet upright. Bend from the hips to get a slight stretch. Use a towel or band to help you bend if you need to. You will feel the stretch in the back of your knees and upper legs. As you feel more and more comfortable lean to the front a little bit more. Hold this position for 20 sec.
7. Hip Flexor II
Move one leg forward until the knee of the forward leg is above your ankle but in no way in in the front of your toes. Your other knee should be on the floor. Lean forward and have your palms on the floor. Lift your back knee of the ground. Keep your body low and feel the stretch in your groin, hamstrings, and hip.
To make it harder move your hands on the inside of your front leg, while opening your front leg to the side. Get down on your elbows if you can.
8. Twisted Stretch
Sit with your right leg straight. Bend your left leg cross your left foot over to the outside of your right knee. Then bend your right elbow and rest it on the outside of your left thigh. Use your elbow to twist yourself and turn your head to look over your left shoulder.
Your lower back and side hip should feel the stretch. Repeat for other side.
9. Rotating Ankles
Sit down. Hold one foot with your arms and start rotating your ankle 10 times. Repeat for other direction and then repeat for other side.
10. Ankle Squats
With legs hip-width apart squat down. Your whole feet should be on the floor. Keep your hands on the floor for balance. If you want to stretch further remove your hands from the floor and keep your balance just like in the video.
You’ll want to check out the proper squat form article to take this even further!
Sit on the floor with your feet against each other. Lean forward until you feel a comfortable stretch in your groin. Hold for a few seconds and then lean a little further if you can putting your elbows on the floor. Hold for 15 sec.
12. Hip Stretch
Sit on the floor and cross one leg over the other, with the outside of your foot resting on the opposite knee. Hold for 20 sec. Repeat on the other side.
3 leg & thigh stretching routines for running, flexibility, and range of motion.
Now that we’ve gone through the proper form of each of these leg and thigh stretches, it’s time to combine them properly into stretching routines. Let’s start with running.
Stretching routine #1. 5 leg and thigh stretches for running.
If you’re a runner, you most likely already have a stretching routine routine. Here are my favorite leg stretches for runners.
- Classic Calf Stretch.
- Floor Quad Stretch.
- Hamstrings Stretch.
- Hip Flexor II.
- Twisted Stretch.
However, sit tight because it appears that stretching is not as healing as we used to think. While stretching after running and exercise has been long-believed to decrease post-workout soreness and injury, science says otherwise.
According to a study conducted by Herbert et al.,”Post-exercise stretching reduced soreness at one day after exercise by, on average, one point on a 100-point scale. Similar effects were evident between half a day and three days after exercise. One large study showed that stretching before and after exercise reduced peak soreness over a one week period by, on average, four points on a 100-point scale. This effect, though statistically significant, is very small.”
In other words, while stretching has benefits, don’t expect any miracles in terms of avoiding soreness. However, it is a great way to cool down and give time to your heart rate to come down to normal levels so that’s why it’s still worth your time as a runner.
Stretching routine #2. 3 leg and thigh stretches for flexibility (splits, yo!)
This is where it all started for me. By following this sequence consistently, I got to splits in just 4 months. I know it can work for you too if you do it consistently. In my leg stretching routine video, you can press play once and follow along with me – step by step!
- Groin Stretch.
- Saddle Hamstring Stretch.
- Straight Bent Leg Stretch.
Stick to this sequence 4 times a week for 4 months, and see how much progress you’ll make. You’ll be amazed what 10 minutes of stretching 4 times a week can do for you.
Stretching routine #3. 4 leg and thigh stretches for improved exercise form and range of motion (perfect if you’re sitting a lot!)
What, leg stretches for people who sit too much? Most people think that it’s their stiff back that needs stretching not their legs. Only that is not true. In most cases, their back does need to be taken care of but so do their legs.
Here’s why. People who sit a lot of hours every day often get decreased range of motion and muscle imbalances. That might mean you can’t actually do a proper squat, because for example you lack ankle flexibility. Or maybe you develop muscle imbalances that create posture issues like lordosis.
Going through this sequence will help increase your range of motion and address the issues that prolonged daily sitting causes.
- Rotating Ankles.
- Ankle Squats.
- Hip Stretch.
And we’re done. Are you going to try any of these leg stretches or leg stretching routines? If yes, which one? Leave a comment and let me know.
Herbert RD, de Noronha M, Kamper SJ. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul 6;(7):CD004577. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004577.pub3.