Your thighs are home to some of the largest and most powerful muscles in your body -- the quadriceps and hamstrings. They also contain smaller muscles along the inner and outer thighs that can cause big problems if weakened or tight. If you have chronically tight thigh muscles or delayed-onset muscle soreness from a tough workout, regularly stretching sore stiff muscles can relive pain and improve mobility.
Dynamic stretches involve movement. They bring the muscle through its full range of motion, getting the blood flowing and bringing blood to the muscles. They're the most effective stretch to do before you workout, when your muscles might still be feeling tender from a previous workout.
Leg swings front-to-back and side-to-side warm up all the muscles of the thighs, including the hamstrings and quadriceps and the abductor and adductor muscles on the outer and inner thighs, respectively.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand up tall and stand firm in your left leg. Pick up your right foot and, keeping the leg straight, swing it front to back. Contract your abdominal muscles to keep your lower back from rounding or arching. Increase the size of the swing as your muscles become warmed and range of motion increases. Do 10 to 20 swings, then switch and swing side-to-side in front of your body. Hold on to a chair or wall for support.
After a hard workout or a tough day at the office, ease your tired thigh muscles with a few static stretches. These stretches are held for 20 to 60 seconds to allow the muscle to release.
A seated or standing forward bend stretches tight hamstrings. If your lower back is tight, allow the knees to bend slightly.
HOW TO DO IT: From a seated position, extend your legs in front of you. Sit up tall, then fold at the hips reaching for your shins or toes. Keep your back as straight as you can.
From standing, keep a flat back as you fold forward, reaching for your shins or the floor.
Wide-legged Forward Fold
This stretch focuses on the groin and adductor muscles on the insides of the thighs.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor and open your legs apart as far as you can. Point your toes up toward the ceiling and fold forward at the hips keeping your back flat. Only go as far as you can without your low back rounding.
Holding forward and side lunges helps stretch the hamstrings, quadriceps and adductor muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Take a big step forward with your right foot. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees and keep your back knee straight. You can also drop your back knee to ground for a less active stretch. Come back to center and take a wide step to your right. Keep your left leg straight and bend into your right knee. Feel the stretch along the inside of your left leg.
Outer Thigh Stretch
The outer thigh muscles are called the abductor muscles. Your IT band, a dense collection of connective tissue, that runs along the outer thigh to the knee can also become tight and painful.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Bend your right knee and cross it over your left leg, placing the sole of your right foot on the floor outside your left knee. Twist your torso to the right placing your left upper arm outside your right knee. Press arm against knee to deepen the twist and the stretch in the outer thigh.