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Stretching isn't just for sports enthusiasts, runners, and gymnasts — everyone can benefit. Much like tuning a car, stretching your muscles regularly helps keep them strong, flexible, and healthy to prevent stiffness, injury, and mobility problems down the line. In this age of sedentary lifestyles, taking a break to stretch our leg muscles from time to time is especially important for maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. It also feels pretty great.

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Standing quad stretch

This simple stretch targets the muscle group in the front of your thigh — the quadriceps, or quads for short. You use your quads to walk, run, and ride a bike. So, basically, all the time. How to do it:

  • Brace your right hand against a wall for balance.
  • Bend your left leg at the knee, bringing your foot toward your seat, then grasp your left foot with your free hand.
  • Try to touch the heel of your foot to your seat, keeping your knees and thighs together. You should feel a gentle stretch at the front of your thigh.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then switch sides.
man on stairs doing quad stretch with bent knee
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Inner thigh stretch

Your inner thigh muscles, or adductors, stabilize your knee and hip joints. These muscles keep you balanced as you walk, bend, and turn around. How to do it:

  • Stand in an extra-wide stance with both feet facing forward. Step forward with the right foot, just enough that the right heel is in line with the left toe.
  • Bend your right knee, and shift your body weight into your right leg until you start feeling a stretch in your left inner thigh.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then switch sides.
young woman doing adductor or inner thigh stretch at home
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Seated forward fold

Unlike the standing forward fold, this beginner hamstring stretch takes the pressure off of the spine. If you struggle to touch your toes, stretching your hamstrings (your posterior thigh muscles) can help increase your flexibility. How to do it:

  • Sit on top of a folded towel to raise your hips slightly, then extend both legs out in front of you.
  • Inhale, then raise your arms straight up to lengthen your spine.
  • Exhale, then fold forward from the hips, reaching toward the toes. Relax the leg muscles as you do so.
  • Hold this pose for several seconds, increasing the time as your flexibility improves. Keep breathing throughout.
close up of woman doing seated forward fold stretch
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Kneeling adductor stretch

This stretch mostly targets the inner thighs, but it also helps loosen your hamstrings. How to do it:

  • Start your hands and knees on the floor in an all-fours position, making sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
  • Stick your right leg straight out to the side and plant your foot flat on the ground, toes forward.
  • Rock your seat back toward the foot you’re kneeling on, hold a few seconds, then rock forward again.
  • Repeat as desired, then switch sides.
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Lateral lunge

This dynamic hamstring and adductor stretch is great for toning the gluteal muscles, but it’s also easier on the knees than regular lunges and squats. How to do it:

  • Stand straight, then step your right foot out to the side with both feet pointing forward. (The farther your legs are apart, the more involved your muscles are.)
  • Lean toward your extended right leg, straightening out your left leg with your seat sticking straight back. Hold a few seconds.
  • Bring your left leg back to the starting position, standing straight.
  • Repeat as desired, then switch sides.
woman by water doing lateral lunge stretch
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Supine leg stretch

Not only does this stretch loosen your hamstrings and calves, but it also works your ankles and lower back — the muscles and joints you use to ride a bike, for example. How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Bend your right knee, and pull it close to your body.
  • Slowly raise the sole of your right foot up to the ceiling as you straighten the leg. Holding behind the thigh or calf, pull the leg toward your torso until you feel a stretch.
  • Point and flex your toes, then perform three ankle circles in both directions.
  • Lower your right leg, then repeat the stretch with your left leg.
  • As seen in the image, you can modify by bending the lower leg.
woman doing hamstring stretch lying down
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Wall hamstring stretch

This static stretch allows you to work on each hamstring individually as you're lying down. How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back next to the corner of a wall or doorway, ensuring you have enough space to raise one leg up against the wall while the other extends fully on the floor through the doorway.
  • Raise the leg straight up toward the ceiling and prop your heel against the wall, keeping your other leg flat on the floor. To increase the stretch, scoot your seat closer to the wall.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then adjust your position to repeat the stretch with your other leg.
  • As shown in the image, if you cannot find a doorway, just keep the other leg bent with the knee out to the side or in toward your chest.
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Pretzel stretch

This quad stretch also targets the muscles in your back, seat, and midsection that help you maintain good posture. How to do it:

  • Lie on your right side, resting your head on your right arm.
  • Bend your left knee up as far as you can toward your chest and let the leg rest on the floor.
  • Bend your right knee behind you, and grasp it with your left arm.
  • Slowly let your left shoulder blade fall to the ground so the top of your back is resting on the floor.
  • Hold, then repeat on the opposite side.
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Wall calf stretch

This basic stretch focuses solely on the calf muscles. How to do it:

  • Stand a little less than an arm’s distance away from a wall, then reach out your arms to brace yourself against it. You can also use a block or stack of books, as long as they won't slide away.
  • Place the ball of your right foot against the wall, with your right heel planted on the ground. Keep your leg mostly straight but don't lock the knee.
  • With your arms supporting you, lean toward the wall as far as you can until you feel a gentle stretch in your calf. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Repeat several times, then repeat with the other leg.
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Reclined bound angle stretch

This soothing stretch is perfect for the end of a workout, or for loosening tight inner thigh muscles at the end of the day. How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back.
  • Touch the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall away from each other, creating a diamond position.
  • Let your knees drop to the floor as far as they’ll go, then hold this pose for 30 seconds. Placing cushions or blocks under the knees can help encourage the inner thigh muscles to relax.
  • The arms can stretch overhead, open to the sides with the elbows bent, or lie along the torso.
woman in reclined butterfly or bound angle stretch

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.