Sore After Leg Day? Try These 8 Stretches

One of the best leg stretches, the quad stretch can help loosen all the muscles across the front of your thigh.
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Just thinking about all your legs power you through — running, walking, standing, jumping, climbing stairs — is enough to leave you exhausted and very, very stiff. But how do you loosen tight leg muscles? With some stretches, of course.


Your legs are comprised of 5 different muscle groups, including your quads, hamstrings, adductors, abductors and calves (yep, even calf stretches are a thing). And in order to stretch your legs fully, you need to give each muscle some attention.

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Read on to learn the best leg flexibility stretches and why they deserve your time and attention.

Dynamic Stretches vs. Static Stretches

Wanting to learn the difference between dynamic versus static stretching? Usually done before a workout, dynamic stretches are active and involve stretching while moving. Dynamic stretches move your joints through a full range of motion and help decrease muscle tension, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS).

Typically performed after a workout, static stretches are held for longer periods of time to help you cool down and promote recovery.

Try These 8 Best Leg Stretches

No single stretch addresses all the muscles of your leg. But you can (and should) do several different moves to loosen up your lower half.

These stretches are static but you can make them dynamic, too. Instead of holding each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, hold for one breath, return to the starting position and repeat. Move through each stretch dynamically for 3 to 4 reps.

1. Toe Touch

  1. Stand tall with your feet two inches from each other.
  2. Keep your knees straight (but not locked) and reach down toward your toes with both arms.
  3. Stick your butt back slightly as you go down.
  4. Go down as far as you can and hang there, holding the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.



If you can't touch your toes, you can modify this stretch. Only go as far as you can and try to deepen the stretch each time you do it, stretching deeper with each exhale.

2. Quadriceps Stretch

  1. Find a wall or something stable to hold onto. Brace yourself with your right hand.
  2. Grab your left foot or ankle with your left hand.
  3. Pull your left foot toward your butt, bending at the knee. Try to touch your heel to your butt.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds on each leg.


To modify this thigh stretch and make it less intense, keep a little more distance between your heel and butt. You can also hold your foot, rather than your ankle.

3. Kneeling Adductor Stretch

  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Reach your right leg out to the side with your knee straight but not locked out. Plant the inside of your foot on the ground with your toes pointed forward.
  3. Rock your butt back toward the other foot and reach your arms forward.
  4. To increase the stretch, reach your right hand toward your right foot.
  5. Stretch for 15 to 30 seconds on each leg.



This is one of the best stretches for the adductors, as it gives you the most control over the intensity of the stretch.

4. Hamstring Stretch on Wall

  1. Lie on your back next to a doorway or the corner of a wall. You need enough space to be able to prop one leg up on the wall while the other leg is flat on the floor.
  2. Scoot toward the wall so your knees are in line with the doorway or corner.
  3. Raise the leg closest to the wall and plant your heel on the wall with your knee straight. Keep the other leg flat on the floor.
  4. To increase the stretch, move closer to the wall.
  5. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds on each side.



5. Bench Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. Stand facing away from a bench or chair that has a flat surface at about knee-height.
  2. Reach one leg back and put the top of that foot flat on the top of the bench or chair.
  3. Drop your back knee down to the ground and keep the other foot planted in front of you.
  4. Keep your torso tall and lean back toward your back leg to increase the stretch.
  5. If you still don't feel a stretch, raise your arms overhead and lean back.
  6. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds on each side.



This stretch focuses on both your hip flexors and quads, and you should feel it from your hips all the way down to your knee. If your bottom knee is uncomfortable, try placing a pillow, blanket or rolled up yoga mat underneath is for more padding.

6. IT Band Stretch

  1. Stand tall with your feet close together, like you're going to touch your toes.
  2. Cross your right leg in front of your left so that your feet are side-by-side (or as close as you can get them without pain or losing your balance).
  3. Fold your upper body forward and reach toward your toes, aiming for the toes of your left foot.
  4. Go as low as you can, then stand back up.
  5. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds on each side.



Many athletes, particularly runners, have discomfort along their IT bands. Though you can't stretch your iliotibial (IT) band directly, if you stretch the tensor fascia latae (TFL), you release tension on the IT band. Use this technique to lengthen the muscles that pull on the IT band and relieve some pressure.

7. Lateral Lunge

  1. Start standing, then step out to the right with your right leg.
  2. Keep both feet pointed forward and lean to your right, straightening your left leg, bending your right knee and sticking your butt back. You should feel a stretch down the inside of your left leg.
  3. Come back up and lean to the left, straightening out your right leg.
  4. Step your left foot up to your right and step to the right again, repeating the stretch.
  5. Do 5 steps to the right and 5 to the left.


8. Kneeling Ankle Stretch

  1. Kneel on a pad, cushion or rolled-up towel on one knee.
  2. Plant the other foot in front of you so that your front knee is bent at 90 degrees. Your back knee should also be bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Put your weight on your front foot and lean forward, trying to drive your knee over your toes. Keep your front heel on the ground.
  4. Come back to the start position, then lean forward again, trying to push slightly farther.
  5. Repeat 10 times on each leg.


Both the ankle, calf muscle and Achilles tendon are common places for injuries, so it's important to take some tension out of your calf by stretching.

Benefits of Stretching Your Legs

A daily stretching routine for your entire body (legs included) can help you recover faster by increasing blood flow across your body. Stretching also encourages better posture and range of motion, which can decrease your muscle stiffness, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Performing stretching exercises before and after a workout can also help decrease your injury risk, per the ACE. The more flexible your muscles, the less likely they are to be injured when you make quick movements during your workout.

A lot like mobility exercises, dynamic stretches can also make your workouts more effective. Warming up your body and improving your range of motion can help you activate more muscles during your workout.

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