The ability to kick your leg high in the air is a must if you practice dance, cheerleading or gymnastics. Often more challenging than they look, high kicks require you to balance on one leg while the other is extended gracefully into the air as high as possible. Tight hamstrings and adductor muscles, located on the back of your upper legs and inner thighs, respectively, can interfere with your leg extension. Stretching your hamstrings and adductors regularly can help to elongate the muscles and aid in achieving a high kick.
Warm up your muscles, especially the hamstrings and inner thighs, with at least 10 minutes of moderately paced cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, climbing stairs or jumping rope. Perform a set of 10 to 12 lunges and a set of 10 to 12 squats to further activate your leg muscles.
Stretch your hamstrings, hips and inner thighs with the standing wide-legged forward bend. Stand on a sticky yoga mat to help anchor your feet, with your feet 2 to 3 feet apart and your toes pointing forward. Engage your abdominal muscles and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Rest your hands on your waist, bend at the hips and bring the top of your head toward the floor. Place your hands on the mat between your feet or on a yoga block if your hands do not reach the ground. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds as you inhale and exhale through your nose. Release the pose and slowly return to a standing position.
Perform standing splits to stretch your inner and back thighs while also improving your lower body strength and stability. Stand tall with your feet together, stomach pulled in and shoulders relaxed. Bend forward at the hips and bring your hands to the floor next to your feet. Use a yoga block for assistance if you are unable to reach the floor. Straighten your legs while keeping the knee joints soft to avoid locking them out. Place your weight on your right foot as you lift your left leg into the air behind you and raise it as high as possible, with the aim of eventually having it perpendicular to the floor. Square your hips by rotating your raised leg. Keep the hip, knee and ankle joints aligned on the standing leg. Hold for five breaths and then lower the left leg back to starting position. Repeat by balancing on the left leg and raising the right.
Stretch your hamstrings with the seated forward bend. Sit on the floor with a rolled up blanket or yoga booster under your glutes. Extend your legs straight out in front of you, with your knees and feet touching. Flex your feet. Elongate your spine and bend forward to bring your torso toward your thighs. Take hold of your feet with your hands. If you cannot reach your feet then hold onto your shins or ankles. Hold the stretch for one to three minutes while inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Release the pose by slowly rolling your torso back to an upright position.
Stretch only as far as your body will naturally allow; forcing a deeper stretch than your muscles are capable can result in injuries.
Consult with a physician before starting a new fitness program. Tell your doctor if your hamstrings or inner thighs are particularly tight and painful. Follow her instructions for the care of your muscles.