5 thigh stretches for increased flexibility and improved mobility

Competitive runners and Olympic weightlifters aren’t the only people who need thigh stretches. No, couch potatoes need to stretch their thighs just as much as their more active peers. Why? Prolonged sitting puts the hip flexors in a shortened position, leading to soreness and stiffness in the upper thighs, as well as underactive glutes and overcompensating hamstrings.

So, whether you’re training for your next marathon or clocking your fifth straight hour in front of the TV, you should know how to stretch your thighs. Use the following list of static and dynamic thigh stretches to stretch your inner thighs, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors.

1. Kick the butt

A butt kick is a dynamic thigh stretch that targets the quadriceps, the muscle group on the front of the thigh, and the hip flexors. When performed quickly, butt kicks also raise your heart rate and warm up your body tissues, priming you for a workout.

“Butt kicks can sometimes make people’s knees worse, since the move is hyperflexed at an accelerated pace,” says Dr. Theresa Marco, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist in physical therapy and owner of Marco Physical Therapy, PLLC. , in New York City.

If you experience knee pain while butt kicking, Marco recommends slowing down and reducing your range of motion. (ie, don’t kick your ass).

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and, keeping your right knee low toward the ground, quickly snap the right heel up and behind you so it taps your hip.
  • Bring your right heel down and jump onto your right foot. Simultaneously lift your left leg up and behind you so that your left heel taps your hip.
  • Continue hopping from foot to foot, tapping your butt with alternating heels, until all reps are complete.

2. Toy soldiers

Also, a dynamic thigh stretch, the toy soldier stretches the hamstrings, the muscles found on the back of the thighs below the glutes. Marko notes that, if performed too quickly, the toy soldier can lead to involuntary pulling and straining of stretched muscles.

“My advice is to ease into them and perform them at a moderate pace,” she says “Don’t try to lift your leg as high as you can!”

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your back and knees straight, swing the right leg forward and lift up until you feel a deep stretch in the back of the thigh. Keep the right leg flexed.
  • Bring the right leg down, step forward, and swing the left leg forward and up. Again, keep the knees straight and the legs flexed.
  • Continue walking forward like a toy soldier, alternating legs, until all reps are completed.

3. Side lunge

Lower Body Workout - Side Lunge

“Side lunges are a great way to stretch the inner thighs,” says Marco. However, if you’re dealing with knee pain or injury, move slowly and proceed with caution, as this inner thigh stretch can put a lot of stress on the ligaments on the inside of the knee.

  • Stand with feet together.
  • Keeping the left foot planted, take a large step sideways with the right foot.
  • Keep your chest up as you bend your right knee, hinge at your hips and push your hips back. Keep your right knee over your ankle and in line with your second toe.
  • Lower your hips until you feel a deep stretch in the inner left thigh.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before returning to standing position.
  • Repeat the same procedure on the opposite side.

4. Crossed-leg forward bend

In addition to stretching the hamstrings, this thigh stretch also targets the top of the iliotibial (IT) band.

  • Stand with feet together and cross right leg over left (like X).
  • Bend forward at the waist, letting your upper body hang. To increase the intensity of the thigh stretch, hold your calves or ankles and pull your chest toward your feet.
  • Hold the thigh stretch for 30 seconds and return to standing position.
  • Cross the left leg to the right and repeat the thigh stretch.

5. Kneeling Lunge

Kneel down  thigh stretch

Marco prefers the kneeling thigh stretch for people with tight quadriceps and hip flexors, but it’s easy to do incorrectly.

“One of the biggest mistakes everyone makes is patting themselves on the back. You really need to be kneeling in a lunge position with your knees at 90 degrees and then you need to do a pelvic tilt and drop your tailbone down. This will pull the hip flexors at the top of the fiber,” Marco says. “Otherwise, if you’re not tilting the pelvis, all you’re doing is arching your back and compressing your lumbar spine.”

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Take an important step with your right foot. Plant your right foot and come up onto the ball of your left foot.
  • Lower your left knee so that it rests on the floor. (You may want to place a mat or towel under your knees.) Both knees should form a right angle.
  • Tip your pelvis forward to tuck in your tailbone. Make sure the front knee is directly over your heel and in line with your second toe.
  • If you are able, reach your left hand back and grab the top of the left foot. Keeping your left knee and right foot balanced, pull your left heel toward your butt. If you can’t reach or hold the left leg, just kneel down.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before extending the thighs and repeating on the opposite side.

You should feel this stretch in the front of your back thigh, which targets your psoas and quads.

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