The 10 Best Leg Stretches to Bolster Your Lower Body Training

If you do it right, leg day is an intense experience. Squatting, lunging, and hinging until you’re a puddle on the gym floor takes up a lot of time and mental real estate. But once you’ve crushed your leg exercises, you’ve got to reassemble yourself — leg stretches can do that very well.

Credit: djile / Shutterstock

Leg day is not just about strength. It’s also one way to stay on top of your mobility, using loaded stretching as a tool to double down on your flexibility. Leg stretches are a massive asset in preparing for a bodyweight leg workout or helping you cool down after the fact. If you’re looking to flex some lower limb knowledge, here are the 10 best leg stretches.

Best Leg Stretches

Seated Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose

Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Couch Stretch

Adductor Split Stance Stretch

Frog Pose

Hurdler’s Stretch

Standing Toe Touch

World’s Greatest Stretch

Calf Stretch

Editor’s Note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. When starting a new training regimen and/or diet, it is always a good idea to consult with a trusted medical professional. We are not a medical resource. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. They are not substitutes for consulting a qualified medical professional.

1. Seated Pigeon Pose

[Read More: Yoga for Bodybuilding: How Getting Flexible Helps You Gain Muscle]

Primarily targeting the glutes, the pigeon pose delivers a very efficient stretch with scalable options for all mobility levels. But the classic, original variation can be tricky to learn.

Enter the seated pigeon pose. This variation allows you to choose the position that best serves your current needs. Use this option to ease into leg stretches and practice pristinely controlled stretching.

How to Do it: 

Sit on the edge of a weight bench with your feet flat on the floor. Aim for your legs to make an approximate 90-degree angle at the knee.

Place your left ankle on top of your right knee, creating a figure-four position with your legs.

Keep a tall posture and lightly hinge forward until you feel a stretch across your glutes.

Coach’s Tip: Be sure to maintain square hip and knee positioning. Try not to let your support knee drift off to one side as this diminishes the stretch.

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-4 sets of a 30-second timed hold on each side. No rest is required between sets.

2. Pigeon Pose

[Read More: How Strength Athletes Can Add Yoga to Their Program]

The classic pigeon pose is the next step in stretching your glutes. Where the seated pigeon pose uses a bench as a support, the classic pigeon pose places you on the floor. This small change increases the mobility demands but also allows for a potentially deeper stretch.

How to Do it: 

Place one leg on the floor with your shin and foot resting underneath your body.

The opposite leg should be flat on the floor behind the rest of your body.

Keep your back straight and slightly lean forward, similar to performing a hinge.

Choose a shin angle on your forward leg that allows you to feel a deep stretch in your glute but isn’t forced into position. Hold for time.

Coach’s Tip: You don’t need to aim for a completely straight left-to-right shin angle for benefits here. Find the shin angle that allows you to feel a mild stretch without discomfort.

Sets and Reps: Hold the pigeon pose for 2-4 sets of 30 seconds. Perform a 30-second stretch on both sides to complete one set.

3. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

[Read More: New Study Finds That Stretching Can Directly Create Muscle Growth]

Between training the lower body and the amount of sitting involved in the average lifestyle outside of the gym, your hip flexors are almost certainly tight at some stage of the week.

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that sit at the top of your thigh around your hip crease. While it doesn’t take a hard sell to get most people stretching them (it feels really good), nailing the technique is paramount for the best results.

How to Do it: 

Kneel down on your right knee, making a 90-degree angle on your left leg.

Keep your hips square and pointed straight ahead.

Brace your core and prevent any flaring of your ribcage.

Squeeze your glute on your right leg, pushing your hips forward naturally. Hold this posture by maintaining the glute squeeze. 

Coach’s Tip: Keep your torso stacked over your hips on this stretch. Squeezing the glute extends your hip and gives you all the stretch you need in the perfect spot.

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-4 sets of 30 seconds per leg, alternating sides without resting until all sets are complete.

4. Couch Stretch

[Read More: How to Do the 90/90 Stretch to Squat Heavier and Move Better]

The couch stretch is an advanced version of the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch. Whether you’re using a bench, yoga block, or couch itself, this is a move you should ease into. A deeper stretch or higher pain tolerance isn’t necessarily the name of the game for stretching your legs. Dial in the right spot and you’ll get everything you need from the couch stretch.

How to Do it:

Kneel down on your right leg with a couch (or bench) placed close behind you.

Make a 90-degree angle with your left leg ahead of you.

Place your right ankle or the top of your right foot on the edge of the coach (or bench).

Flex your right glute and keep your back straight as you feel a stretch develop across the length of your right quadriceps.

Coach’s Tip: Be sure to maintain a stacked torso posture here as well. Do not arch your back or you may begin losing the stretch in the place you’re trying to target.

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-4 sets of 30 seconds per leg here, starting slow and easing into it. There is no need for rest between legs. You can simply alternate once each hold is complete.

5. Adductor Split Stance Stretch

[Read More: 7 Stretches That Can Help Your Posture]

The adductors are the inner thighs and are often forgotten about when the time comes to stretch the legs. Your quads, glutes, and hamstrings (and even calves!) are usually pretty obvious targets, but your adductors are very important as well.

Something as simple as an adductor split stance stretch is enough to make a difference in your lower leg mobility. Making sure the adductors are properly stretched before or after your workouts may help improve the range of motion on many movement patterns.

How to Do it: 

Take a standing position with your legs set outside of shoulder width.

Keep your feet pointed straight ahead or subtly pointed out.

Brace your core and shift your weight more towards your left leg.

Keep your right leg straight and bend the left knee. Slowly push your right leg towards the floor.

Coach’s Tip: Ease into the adductor split stance stretch. The adductors are often targeted less and hold a lot of tension, so you won’t need much to start feeling them. 

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-4 sets of 30-second timed holds per side, switch sides without resting to complete all sets.

6. Frog Pose

[Read More: How Deep Stretching Promotes Emotional Release]

You’ll be working on dynamic stretching here. This stretch, borrowed from yoga, is a floor variation of the split stance adductor stretch and thus also stretches your inner thighs. 

The frog pose is scalable and more dynamic than the split stance adductor stretch, allowing you to rock back and forth to find the perfect position. The frog pose is also extremely time-efficient as you won’t need to switch sides. One well-executed frog pose stretches both adductors at the same time.

How to Do it: 

Kneel down on your exercise mat and assume a quadruped position (on your hands and knees).

Widen your leg stance enough that you create a triangle with your legs and the floor. You should place your weight onto the inner portion of your knees.

Widen the leg stance as much as needed to begin feeling an adductor stretch.

Using your arms, move yourself forward and backward to find the appropriate stretch across your adductors.

Coach’s Tip: Ease into your frog pose. The adductors are often tight and the frog pose is a very effective position to stretch them. It won’t take much to get started.

Sets and Reps: Hold your frog pose for 2 sets of 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time. You won’t need to switch sides as one frog pose stretches both adductors simultaneously.

7. Hurdler’s Stretch

[Read More: The 9 Best Stretches for CrossFit Athletes to Maximize Performance]

You might remember this one from middle school. The hurdler’s stretch is a simple way to begin stretching out your hamstrings and adductors but allows you to individually target each side. Using your own body as a landmarking tool for progress, reach for your toes and see how quickly your mobility improves each session.

How to Do it: 

Take a seat on the floor, extend your right leg slightly off to one side, and bring your left foot into your right inner thigh.

Flex your right ankle to the sky to start your stretch, keeping your left foot in contact with your right thigh.

Keep your back straight as you subtly begin to lean towards your right foot.

Reach for your right foot and ease into a slight hamstring and adductor stretch.

Coach’s Tip: Once you have mastered the standard hurdler’s hamstring stretch, try rounding your back to move through other commonly stiff areas (for example, the lower back). 

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-4 sets of 30 seconds per side. Alternate stretches between legs without resting.

8. Standing Toe Touch

[Read More: Active Stretches Explained — Science-Backed Selections for Optimal Recovery & Performance]

While simply bending over is usually enough to start feeling the stretch, adding a bit of finesse to your technique is a quick way to alter what you’re targeting. Shifting from side to side, or even keeping your back straight or rounded are ways to change the focal point of the standing toe-touch.

How to Do it: 

Take a close foot stance (about hip-width or closer) with your toes pointed straight ahead.

Bend over and reach for your toes, allowing your back to round and relax into a deep stretch.

You can also bring one foot into your hand and kick your foot back into your hand — this will provide a good quad stretch.

Coach’s Tip: Initiate with more of a hinge technique for a better hamstrings and glute stretch, or shift to one side for a better stretch into your quadratus lumborum.

Sets and Reps: Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds to 1-minute of the standing toe-touch. If you are emphasizing one side or using a different technique, perform the stretch once on both sides to complete one set.

9. World’s Greatest Stretch

[Read More: 7 At-Work Stretches to Boost Your Gym Performance]

The world’s greatest stretch is named as such because it hits your adductors, hip flexors, glutes, and thoracic spine all at the same time. While it is taxing in its own right with all the moving parts, it would be hard to find a more well-balanced stretch for your routine.

How to Do it: 

Get into a deep lunge, sending your right leg ahead of your body and sinking into your right hip.

In this extended lunge position, keep your hips square while you rotate your thoracic spine to face the floor before turning your torso to face the right.

Switch legs and perform for repetitions, holding each part of the stretch for a few seconds at a time to stretch each muscle.

Perform even repetitions on your left side and your right.

Coach’s Tip: Start small and work up. The world’s greatest stretch may feel like a workout itself, perform a handful of repetitions per side and rest as needed.

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-5 repetitions of the world’s greatest stretch per side. Hold each stretch sensation for 5-10 seconds before alternating sides. Rest between sides as necessary.

10. Calf Stretch

[Read More: Try These 8 Tight Calves Stretches to Improve Ankle Mobility]

Don’t neglect your calf muscles. But where many leg stretches take some effort to get into and hold, the calf stretch is a nice way to truly relax as you cool down. Performed either against a wall or with a small wedge, this one takes minimal effort for its benefits.

How to Do it: 

Take a front-to-back split stance with your lead foot placed upon a wedge.

Flex your front ankle up to start the standing calf stretch. Keep your back leg flat or on the ball of your foot to support.

Keep your knee on the lead leg slightly bent to prevent hyperextension.

Lean forward into the lead leg, keeping the ankle flexed up and stretching your calf.

Coach’s Tip: Keep your back straight and perform a hinge technique to get the best stretch in your calf without spilling over into other muscles.

Sets and Reps: Perform 2-4 sets of 30 seconds per leg. There is no need to rest between sets, simply perform all rounds back to back.

Warming Up for Leg Stretches

As much as possible, avoid stretching your muscles cold. You don’t want to sink too deeply into a stretch suddenly before your muscles are acclimatized. Think of it like performing ramp-up sets of back squats — you do some reps with an empty barbell and then gradually get heavier instead of diving right into your working sets.

Something as simple as five to 10 minutes of moderate cardio can improve your stretch session with minimal upfront effort. 

A few examples may include:

Stair Climber: 5 minutes at moderate intensity.

Exercise Bike: 10 minutes at moderate intensity.

Elliptical: 10 minutes at moderate intensity.

Rowing Machine: 5 minutes at moderate intensity.

How to Train for Leg Flexibility

Using both dynamic and static stretching can help enhance your lower body flexibility. Incorporating stretches before or after your leg day during a structured dynamic warm-up or cool-down is the obvious route, but the resistance training session flow itself works well too.

Try performing your lower body exercises (for example Romanian deadlifts or Bulgarian split squats) with tempo training techniques. 

Controlling the eccentric portion (the lowering half) of each repetition is a way to incorporate loaded stretches into your routine. In combination with your warm-up or cool-down routine, loaded stretches are a powerful way to build and maintain your flexibility.

Selecting Leg Stretches

Your program helps direct which stretches you’ll get the biggest benefit from. Warming up is a great way to identify where you feel tightness and best select the stretches for you. Once you have completed your general cardio warm-up, make sure to take on some lower-load ramp-up sets for your first exercise. 

Visual feedback on your technique (from the mirror, film, or a trusted training buddy or certified personal trainer (CPT) can help you figure out what areas you need to work on. You can also simply monitor where you’re feeling tight to help you decide where to start stretching.

Leg Stretching Sets and Reps

Stretching should help improve your performance on the day. If you’re going to stretch before lifting weights, cooling down, or for pure relaxation, there are slight differences in how you should approach your sets and reps.

Before Lifting Weights: Perform 1-2 sets of 30 seconds to 1 minute of each stretch, making sure to wait about 2-3 minutes to start lifting weights after particularly long or intense stretches. Avoid stretching your muscles when they’re completely cold — so, try to integrate them into your general warm-up, complete with cardio and dynamic stretches.

For Cooling Down: Perform 2-4 sets of 30 seconds to 1 minute of each stretch, flowing between sides or stretches without resting.

For Relaxation: Create a long stretching flow, performing each stretch for 1-2 minutes at a time and focusing on long slow breaths. Try creating a 10-15 minute circuit or stretching to relaxing music.

Leg Stretching Training Tips

Incorporating any new part of a routine is sometimes hard to start. For the best results, ease into your new routine, be consistent, and remember it doesn’t take much to see results.

Ease In

You don’t want to dive into the deepest stretches possible. Remember that you don’t need to go for the high score of discomfort tolerance for results. Simply aim for a nice stretch feeling with mild discomfort at most to start seeing improvements.

Be Consistent

You’ll struggle to see results if you’re not consistently applying your new routine. Similar to easing in, you need to strive for consistency to see your body adapt. 

[Read More: Mobility vs. Flexibility — Why It Matters and What It Means for You]

If your goal is to improve flexibility or lifting performance, be consistent session over session. Start small with one to two key stretches — but be diligent in applying them every single time.

You Don’t Need Much

Starting a new habit or altering your routine is sometimes a challenge. One helpful tip is to ease in, both in terms of how much you’re changing but also literally during the stretches. Start slow and add one to two key stretches before or after your leg workouts. 

Just like when you start a new cardio or weight lifting routine, you don’t need much to start seeing benefits. The alternative may be performing no stretching whatsoever, so adding anything is a massive step in the right direction. 

Benefits of Leg Stretches

There are more than enough benefits of stretching to get you motivated to start. The key points here are going to be improved lower body flexibility, reduced stiffness, and practicing key techniques for weight lifting.

Lower Body Flexibility

Lower body flexibility is an obvious benefit of stretching. Although strategically lifting weights itself is a way to slowly improve flexibility, the most direct way to accomplish that goal would be to simply stretch. If your hamstrings, hip flexors, or glutes are feeling particularly tight, incorporating warm-up, cool-down, or off-day stretching helps immensely.

Reduced Stiffness

The recovery process between hard workouts is sometimes a workout in itself. The stiffness and delayed onset muscle soreness from epic leg days are a trademark of the lower body labor of love. With that in mind, stiffness in your downtime between workouts is a pain.

Credit: Master1305 / Shutterstock

[Read More: The 6 Best Hamstring Stretches to Add to Your Routine]

Hitting up some relaxing stretching flows is a great way to reduce stiffness while your body does its thing recovering between workouts. Although the stiffness is likely to recur a few times between sessions, hitting some stretching exercises or yoga poses when you’re feeling super rigid can help manage stiffness between workouts.

Technical Practice

Many of your best leg day exercises and lower body stretches overlap in their core techniques. The pigeon pose and your hip hinge, for example, are extremely similar in set-up and muscles worked. A solid hip hinge technique (and torso posture) helps give you the best possible stretch during both deadlift and stretching routines. 

Spending more time playing with your technique is invaluable for training key techniques and improving proprioception — your awareness of your body. Keeping that top of mind is a smart way to add more practice to your routines.

What Muscles Make Up the Legs

Your leg muscles inevitably get tight from training and everyday life activities. Here’s the major muscle group breakdown of your lower body and what they do.

Quadriceps: Your quadriceps primarily extend your knee and flex your hip, and are a massive target of hip flexor stretches.

Hamstrings: Your hamstrings are responsible for extending your hip and flexing your knee. Hip hinge exercises are prime examples of hamstring movements.

Glutes: The glutes work to extend, externally rotate, and abduct the hip. Pigeon pose is a fantastic stretch for targeting the glutes. 

Adductors: The adductors are the inner thigh muscles primarily working to adduct (squeeze together) your legs. The frog pose is a great example of how to stretch the adductors.

Calves: Your calves are the muscles on the back of your lower leg bone and work to flex your ankle downward (think calf raises). A standing calf stretching using a wedge would be a fantastic way to target the calves.

More Training Content

Leg stretches aren’t just for the yoga practitioners of the world. Adding a few key leg stretches to your routine can help improve performance and relieve stiffness. Ease into your stretches, be consistent, and don’t force yourself into too much work, too soon. 

Check out more lower-body training content to maximize your leg day: 

The Best Bodybuilding Leg Workouts for Your Experience Level

Active Stretches Explained — Science-Backed Selections for Optimal Recovery & Performance

The Best Hypertrophy Leg Workout (+Tips and Tricks)


Some final thoughts:

What stretches should I do for my legs?

One way to incorporate lower body stretching into your routine is to target each of your major muscle groups with one key stretch — the world’s greatest stretch integrates a whole lot for your lower body (and your upper body, too). 
Add something for your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, and calves. From there, try to refine your list based on what seems to need more or less.

How can I improve my leg flexibility?

Adding stretches to your routine (as a warm-up, cool-down, or stand-alone stretch session) is a great way to improve your flexibility over time. Be consistent, adding one to two stretches during two to three days per week at first to see some great results.

What are some effective stretches for relieving leg cramps?

When you’re experiencing cramping, you might want to check in with a physical therapist or other healthcare professional. That said, if you’re cleared for exercise by a licensed wellness professional, you might find that cramping often occurs in your calves or hamstrings. If you’re cleared to do these moves, a standing toe-touch or hurdler’s stretch and a standing calf stretch may be helpful, for example after a run.
If cramping is severe or persistent, simply stretching might not be enough to reduce your risk of injury. Consult with a healthcare professional and consider your hydration, nutrition, and programming for a better idea of the root cause of your cramps.

Featured Image: djile / Shutterstock

The post The 10 Best Leg Stretches to Bolster Your Lower Body Training appeared first on BarBend.


您的电子邮箱地址不会被公开。 必填项已用 * 标注