Leg stretches are very important for all types of exercise and carry many benefits. Are you recovering from a leg muscle injury?

Are you a runner? An MMA fighter? A Gymnast? Or are you just looking to improve your leg dexterity for general comfort and mobility? In any case, you can benefit greatly from leg stretches.

Take a look at the following benefits of leg stretches:

  • Increased flexibility (source);
  • Increased range of motion (source);
  • Improved posture (source);
  • Improved physical performance (source);
  • Increased blood flow (source);

Not a bad list of benefits, right?

Today we’re going to discuss the two main types of leg stretches you can do to tick all those beneficial boxes; dynamic stretches and static stretches.

What are Dynamic Leg Stretches?

Dynamic leg stretches involve stretching your muscle through dynamic movements for 30-60 seconds without holding a position at the end.

What are Static Leg Stretches?

Static leg stretches involve holding a position for between 10-30 seconds.

Which Type of Leg Stretches Should You Do?

Most people do static stretching pre-exercising, but it should be the other way around.

Why?

Studies have demonstrated that people who stretched dynamically before exercise decreased their chances of injury and physically outperformed their static stretching counterparts.

You should do dynamic leg stretches pre-exercise and static leg stretches post-exercise.

How Long Should You Stretch For?

Aim for 6-12 minutes of dynamic stretching pre-exercise. And aim for 5-10 minutes of static stretching post-exercise.

Let’s take a look at the best dynamic and static leg stretches you can do for each muscle group.



Quad Stretches

Quads stand for quadriceps. They’re a group of four large muscles at the front of your thighs.

The four muscles in your quads are:

  • Vastus lateralis
  • Rectus femoris
  • Vastus intermedius
  • Vastus medialis

Quad Stretches

Dynamic Quad Stretches

Walking Lunges (targets all quad muscles)

Walking lunges are great stretches for your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. But you can adjust the movement slightly to target one muscle group over the other.

In this example, we’re going to go through the variation that prioritizes your quads.

How to perform walking lunges:



  • Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width apart;
  • Put your right foot forward and bend your knee (the usual recommendation is at a 90° angle, but take a slightly shorter step so you can focus on your quads);
  • Push up with your front leg in a forward motion so you finish with one step forward from starting position;
  • Repeat the same motion with your left leg;
  • Aim for 3 sets (30-60 seconds per set).

Take a look at the video below to see a walking lunge in action:

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You won’t need to use a barbell (like the guy in the video) but pay attention to his posture. It’s important for you to keep a neutral spine as you perform the motion.

The Vastus Lateralis Stretch

The vastus lateralis stretch is a dynamic stretch that targets the vastus lateralis part of your quad, as well as your glutes and hip.

How to Perform:

  • Start in a seated position on the floor or yoga mat;
  • Post your right hand on the floor behind you;
  • Post your left foot on the floor at a 90° angle;
  • Drive your left leg forward (squeeze your glute as you do perform the motion);
  • Pull back to your starting position (left foot at 90° angle);
  • Switch sides and perform the same motion (post left hand on the floor and right leg at a 90° angle);
  • Aim for 3 sets (30-60 seconds per set).

Have a look at an example in the video below:

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Heel Drops (vastus medialis stretch)

Are you an athlete? Heel drops are a very important stretch for you because they can help strengthen the muscles around your knees for exercises like running.

You’ll need a box to perform this stretch.

How to Perform:

  • Place one foot on your box and stand up (on one leg);
  • Bend your knee slightly and perform a downward motion;
  • Make sure your knee doesn’t bend over your toes (keep your hips pressed back);
  • Drive back up to starting position;
  • Perform this motion for 30 seconds and then change legs and repeat;
  • Aim for 3 sets (30-60 seconds per set).

You can see an example of this stretch below:

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Okay, so we’ve gone through 3 dynamic leg stretches for your quads post-exercise, now let’s take a look at the best static quad stretches for post-exercise.

Static Quad Stretches

It’s actually quite difficult to focus on each part of your quads with individual static stretches. For this reason, I like to do the kneeling quad stretch because even though it mainly targets the rectus femoris part of your quad, it does involve the other parts as well.

The Kneeling Quad Stretch (bridge variation)

Most people perform this stretch standing (the simple quad stretch) but it’s actually better to do it kneeling against a wall.

Why?

Your rectus femoris hooks into your hip so you need to involve your hip in this stretch as well as your quads. It’s more effective to involve your hip and quads from a kneeling position, and it also puts less pressure on your lumbar.

How to Perform a Kneeling Quad Stretch:

  • Kneel on the ground and sit back on your heels;
  • Reach your hands back and post on the ground behind you;
  • Press your hip forward and squeeze your glutes;
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds;
  • Repeat the process 3 times (30-second break in between).

Check out the video below to see how it’s done:

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Common Quad Stretching Questions

Let’s finish this section off by answering some of the most common questions about quad stretching.

What are the best quad stretches for knee pain?

This question gets asked a lot and dynamic leg stretches are usually the answer.

Why?

It depends on your type of knee injury but in a lot of cases, people need to strengthen the muscles around their knee for support.

Heel drops and lunges are great exercises for reducing knee pain.

You can start with bodyweight and then hold free-weights with both these exercises to progressively build strength. Add more free-weight each week (if it feels comfortable) to increase strength.

Just make sure your technique is 100% perfect before you add free-weights because you can actually cause knee pain if your technique is incorrect.

What are the best quad stretches for sore quads?

The answer to this question is somewhat subjective to the part of your quad that feels sore. But we’ve covered stretches for all parts of your quads today so take your pick!

A better question is; why are your quads sore?

The most common answer to that question would probably be; “because I don’t do pre and post workout leg stretches”.

The solution? Make sure you spend at least 5 or 6 minutes stretching pre and post workout!

Stretching might not be fun but it pays off in the long run.

What are the best quad stretches for runners?

I made the mistake of running a half-marathon without stretching before it started (I was late to the event).

That half-marathon was probably the most painful and testing experience of my life because my leg muscles burnt out within 1 mile. The next 12 miles were agony.

Your leg muscles will let you down very quickly if you’re not fully stretched out before you start – whether you run 3 miles, 5 miles, or 13 miles.

My point is; invest a good 10-20 minutes into stretching before you run.

I like to do walking lunges, the vastus lateralis stretch, and heel drops before I run.

You might want to do those 3 dynamic leg stretches, run for 5 minutes at a slow pace, and repeat the stretches again before you start your main run.

Hamstring Stretches

Let’s move on and look at the different types of dynamic and static stretches you can do for your hamstrings.

Your hamstring is made up of the following 3 posterior thigh muscles:

  • Semimembranosus.
  • Semitendinosus.
  • Biceps femoris.

Hamstring Stretches

Your 3 hamstring muscles are grouped closer together than your quad muscles so it’s harder to target them individually.

We’re going to categorize the stretches as upper hamstring and lower hamstring stretches instead.

Dynamic Upper Hamstring Stretches

Floor Bridge

Floor bridge’s are a very simple way to target your upper hamstrings. All you need is a yoga mat and floor space.

How to perform a floor bridge:

  • Lie belly up on your yoga mat;
  • Keep your feet flat to the ground and your hands by your side (palm down)
  • Make sure your lower back is flat on your mat;
  • Drive through your heels and lift your hips up in an upward motion;
  • Hold for 1 second and go back down;
  • Repeat this process for 30-60 seconds (3 sets).

You can check out an example of this stretch below:

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