If your hips and inner thighs often feel tight or you have groin pain, stretching your inner thighs and lower body can help. Keeping your hips and legs flexible can help prevent hip, knee and lower back pain.
Your inner thigh muscles, also called adductors, are a set of five muscles. They work to bring your leg in toward the center of your body, rotate it inward and also give your pelvis support. They help keep your entire lower body — including your lower back, hips and knees — in the proper alignment.
What Causes Tight Inner Thighs?
Tight inner thighs can be caused by a number of things, but researchers from an October 2022 study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies say there's a good chance being inactive or sitting too much is involved. Try to stay active throughout the day to keep your muscles loose.
Weakness in your glutes can also cause muscle imbalances that contribute to inner thigh tightness, according to July 2019 expert commentary in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
That's because your groin and glutes are opposing forces through the hips — so weak glutes can mean your inner thighs have to work harder to move and stabilize your hips. Incorporating glute strengthening exercises along with inner thigh stretches can be helpful.
If you have strained your groin through exercise or a sport (running, tennis, skating, basketball), you may also have inner thigh tightness.
Signs You Have Tight Inner Thighs
"When you have tight hip adductor muscles, this will cause compensation in other areas of your body such as your low back and knees, leading to joint wear and tear — and eventually pain and injury," says physical therapist Grayson Wickham, DPT, founder of Movement Vault. "For this reason, tight adductor muscles can lead to knee pain, hip pain, groin pain and back pain."
Wickham says the following signs indicate you have tight inner thigh muscles:
- Not being able to sit cross-legged
- Difficulty with the butterfly stretch
- Not being able to spread your legs apart very far in a standing split position
- Difficulty performing a squat
- Groin strain or pain
If you are having inner thigh pain or groin pain (not just tightness), it is important you check in with a doctor. This pain could be caused by a strain, but it can also be the result of other conditions, according to Penn Medicine, such as a hernia, kidney stones or urinary tract infection.
Benefits of Inner Thigh Stretches
The American Council on Exercise says there are many benefits of a regular stretching program, including reduced muscle tension, improved range of motion and improved flexibility. A regular stretching program can also help prevent injuries (such as strains and sprains) and help your muscles work more efficiently, which can improve your athletic performance.
However, Wickham says it is important not to overstretch one particular muscle group.
"Being too flexible, also known as hypermobility, can lead to joint pain and injury because you lack joint stability," he says. "You should focus on having great adductor mobility, which means you have good inner thigh flexibility, muscle activation and active range of motion. This will help you perform almost any leg movement or exercise better, as well as help prevent lower back, hip and knee pain."
Experts say inner thigh stretches help prevent groin or adductor strains, and stretching is also often used as a treatment for groin injuries as well — just make sure if you've got a strain, you're doing other therapies. Stretching alongside other treatments is generally helpful, according to a September 2021 review in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, but more research is needed to verify the benefits of stretching alone in the treatment of groin strains.
Should you stretch your inner thigh if it hurts?
“If you have some discomfort in your inner thighs while stretching, this is OK,” Wickham says. “If you have sharp pain down the inner thigh, pinching, burning, numbness or tingling, this is not OK, and you should modify your stretch or stop the stretch altogether.”
5 Inner Thigh Stretches for Better Flexibility
The following five stretches will help loosen up your inner thighs and improve your hip flexibility. There are different types of stretches that should be done at different points in your exercise routine. When you think of stretching, you might be thinking of static stretching, which means you hold a stretch for a period of time (such as 30 seconds) without moving. These types of stretches are best done as a cooldown after exercise.
Another type of stretch is called dynamic stretching, in which you are moving your body as you stretch. This type of stretching is best done as a warmup before exercise.
Wickham's preferred method of stretching is called active stretching. This type of stretching is recommended after a warmup or at the end of your exercise routine.
"With active stretching, you are first stretching out your inner thigh adductor muscles as much as possible and then contracting these same muscles while they are maximally stretched out," he says.
You can also use a foam roller on your inner thighs to help increase circulation before stretching.
The following moves include dynamic, static and active stretches to help loosen up your inner thighs.
How often should you stretch your inner thighs?
“This depends on your goals," Wickham says. "A good starting point is including inner thigh active stretches one to two times per week as part of a well-balanced stretching and mobility program."
Increase this to three to four times per week if any of these are true:
- You play a sport that has a lot of lateral movement
- You perform lower body exercises frequently
- You have a specific goal of improving your adductor muscle mobility in a short period of time
1. Leg Swings
This is a dynamic inner thigh stretch that can be done as part of a warmup to loosen up your hips.
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- You can hold onto a chair or table for support as needed.
- Lift your left leg up and swing it from side to side across your body, all the way out to the side and then in across your body.
- Try to keep your torso straight. Don't let it twist with your leg.
- Repeat 2 sets of 20 on each side.
2. Lateral Lunge
The lateral lunge is another dynamic stretch to improve the flexibility of your inner thighs. This should also be done as a warm-up exercise.
- Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step out with your right foot until you have a wide stance.
- Keeping both toes facing forward, bend your left knee into a lunge position and pushing your hips back.
- Go down as low as you can, feeling a stretch along your right leg.
- Straighten your leg back to the starting position, keeping your feet in the wide stance.
- Repeat the lunging movement for 20 reps.
- Repeat on the other leg.
3. Active Frog Stretch
This is an active stretch that should be done after a warmup or after exercising to help improve inner thigh flexibility. This stretch involves contracting your muscles to help deepen the stretch.
- Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Place a mat under your knees for a cushion if needed.
- Spread your knees wider than your hips, as far as you can until you feel a stretch.
- Turn your feet in and your knees will be bent in a frog-leg position. The inside of your knees will be resting on your floor.
- You can rest on your hands or, for a deeper stretch, rest on your arms.
- Press your knees into the floor, tightening your inner thigh muscles, for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Relax and deepen the stretch.
- Repeat 3 to 5 times.
4. Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch is a static or passive stretch that should be done as part of a cooldown at the end of your exercise routine.
- Sit on the floor or a mat.
- Place the soles of your feet together.
- Let your knees drop or relax to the side unit you feel a stretch along your inner thighs.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times.
5. Yoga Squat
The yogi squat, or malasana, is a yoga move with many benefits, including stretching the inner thighs, opening up the groin and pelvic floor, and stretching the calves.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes slightly turned out.
- Bend your knees and come down into a full squat with your bottom as close to the ground as your mobility allows.
- Once in your full squat, take the time to adjust your feet and stance as needed. Try to keep your heels flat on the ground.
- Keep your torso straight as you bring your palms together and press your elbows into your knees to draw your legs apart.
- Keep your gaze forward, shoulders back and focus on lengthening through your spine.
- Think about reaching your tailbone toward your heels.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: "Assessing and Treating Gluteus Maximus Weakness - A Clinical Commentary"
- American Council on Exercise: "Top 10 Benefits of Stretching"
- Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology: "Stretching for Recovery from Groin Pain or Injury in Athletes: A Critical and Systematic Review"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Adductor Strain"
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