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

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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Good Mornings

Good mornings are more of a free-weight exercise that’s great for upper hamstring and lower back building. But we’re going to go for very low weight/no weight and turn it into a dynamic stretch for 20-30 reps.

You’ll need to use a barbell for this stretch (ideally at a squat rack).

How to perform good mornings:

  • Start with a barbell across your back;
  • Keep your back tight and shoulder blades pinched together;
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees;
  • Bend at your hips, moving them back so you finish in a parallel position (keep your head up and chest puffed out to maintain an arch in your back);
  • Extend through your hips in an upward motion using your upper hamstrings and glutes;
  • Take a deep breath when you are back in starting position and repeat the process for 20-30 reps;
  • Do 3 sets with a 1-minute rest in between.

I want to stress how important it is to keep your head up and chest puffed out for this stretch because your lower back will curve if you don’t, and it could result in injury.

Start with very low weight and only increase if you can very easily perform 30 reps. Remember, this is a warm-up stretch, not a muscle building exercise.

You can see an example of good mornings below:

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Static Upper Hamstring Stretch

Forward Fold

This is probably the most common hamstring stretch so I’m sure you already know how it’s done! But let’s go through it just in case!

How to perform a forward fold:

  • Start in a standing position with your feet at shoulder width apart (you can start with a narrower stance if you’re already flexible);
  • Bend forward from your hips (don’t involve your waist);
  • Touch your fingertips to the floor if you can (cross your forearms and hold your elbows if you can’t);
  • Try to go deeper into the stretch as you breathe in;
  • Go as deep as you can and hold the position for 10-30 seconds (3 sets with 30 seconds rest).

Try not to lead with your finger to the floor as it can take the stretch away from your hamstrings. Let your hips take you down and only touch the floor if you can.

You can see an example of this stretch below:

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You can also perform this stretch from a seated position if you prefer. See the video below as an example:

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Dynamic Lower Hamstring Stretch

Let’s move on to the lower part of your hamstrings.

Supine Kicks

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be Bruce Lee to pull this stretch off, it’s fairly straightforward!

How to perform lying supine kicks:

  • Lie belly up on your yoga mat with your legs at full length;
  • Bring your left leg up to a 90° angle (keep your right leg down);
  • Place your right hand on the back of your lower hamstring (close to the back of your knee);
  • Perform a slow upwards kicking motion (your leg should finish fully extended);
  • Repeat the process for 30-60 seconds and switch legs (3 sets with 30 seconds rest).

You can see an example in the video below:

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Static Lower Hamstring Stretch

Bicep Femoris Stretch

The bicep femoris stretch is actually very similar to supine kicks. Let’s take a look.

How to perform a bicep femoris stretch:

  • Lie belly up on your yoga mat with your legs at full length;
  • Bring your left leg up to a 90° angle (keep your right leg down);
  • Place your right hand on the back of your lower hamstring (close to the back of your knee);
  • Extend your knee and hold the position for 10-30 seconds;
  • Switch legs and repeat the process (3 sets with 30 seconds rest)

Take a look at an example below:

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Common Hamstring Stretching Questions

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

What are the best hamstring stretches for lower back pain?

It’s actually quite common for tight hamstrings to cause lower back pain, so regularly stretching them can ease your pain.

The forward fold stretch is one of the best stretches to ease lower back pain.

If you suffer from lower back pain you’re likely to have very tight hamstrings, so do I expect you to touch your fingertips to the floor on the first go? Of course not!

Perform the technique we talked about and if you can’t touch your fingertips to the floor, try to progress week-on-week and you should increase your dexterity.

It would also benefit you to include a dynamic stretch like good mornings to build your back strength. Make sure you start at a very low weight though and stop if you feel any back pain.

It goes without saying that if you suffer from severe back pain you should speak to your doctor!

What are the best hamstring stretches for knee pain?

I used to have tendonitis in my lower hamstring muscle but I didn’t fix it for a long time because I thought it was ligament damage.

I can’t express how I elated I was when I finally cured my “knee” pain after 2 years because it had affected me a lot.

How did I cure it?

I performed the bicep femoris stretch 3 times a week for 2-3 months and I didn’t experience pain in the back of my knee again!

If you experience pain or discomfort in the back of your knee there’s a strong chance you could have tendonitis or a tight bicep femoris tendon. Make sure you do plenty of lower hamstring stretching if this applies to you.

Adductor Stretches

Let’s move on and look at the different types of dynamic and static stretches you can do for your adductor (inner thigh).

Adductor

Dynamic Adductor Stretch

This is a really simple stretch, but trust me, you’re going to feel it!

How to perform the adductor stretch:

  • Start from a standing position;
  • Take a wide stance and move your right leg slightly in front of your left leg;
  • Place your hands on your hips;
  • Squeeze your left glute and bend your right knee so your weight is shifted to your right side;
  • Keep your left glute squeezed because you want to feel the stretch on your inner left thigh (adductor);
  • Hold for 2-4 seconds and then move back to starting position;
  • Repeat the movement for 30-60 seconds;
  • Switch legs and repeat the same process (3 sets with 30 seconds rest in between).

Take a look at an example below:

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Static Adductor Stretch

So this is going to be exactly the same as what we just went through but we’re going to take out the dynamic movement.

How to perform a static adductor stretch:

  • Start from a standing position on your yoga mat;
  • Take a wide stance and move your right leg slightly in front of your left leg;
  • Place your hands on your hips;
  • Squeeze your left glute and bend your right knee so your weight is shifted to your right side;
  • Keep your left glute squeezed because you want to feel the stretch on your inner left thigh (adductor);
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds and then move back to starting position;
  • Switch legs and repeat the same process (3 sets with 30 seconds rest in between).

Check out the example below:

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Calf Stretches

Your calf muscles can be separated into two categories; gastrocnemius (upper calf) and soleus (lower calf).

Calf Stretches

Let’s finish off today by looking at some dynamic and static leg stretches for the upper and lower parts of your calf.

Dynamic Upper Calf Stretch

Calf Raises

You will need a box or step to perform this stretch and you’ll ideally be near a wall or have something to lean on.

How to perform:

  • Stand on your box or step;
  • Press up with both feet so your heels are raised as far as they can go;
  • Bring your weight onto your right leg (take your left leg off the box);
  • Slowly lower your right heel down, pause, and raise up again (keep the tension on your calf throughout the range of motion);
  • Repeat this movement for 30-60 seconds;
  • Switch legs and repeat the process (3 sets with 30 seconds rest in between).

Do this stretch with both legs at the same time if you struggle with one leg.

You can see an example below:

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Static Upper Calf Stretch

Calf Stretch

This a very common stretch that I’m sure most of you already do! Let’s go through it just in case.

How to perform a calf stretch:

  • Stand at arm’s length against a wall (1-2 feet);
  • Place the toes of your right foot against the wall with your heel to the ground;
  • Push your hip forward to stretch your calf (keep both legs straight);
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat the process for your left calf (3 sets with 30 seconds rest in between).

You can see an example of this stretch below:

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Dynamic Lower Calf Stretch

Soleus Stretch

How to perform:

  • Start in a kneeling position;
  • Post your left leg forward and bend your knee;
  • Raise your heel until you feel the tension (you can put your elbows on your left knee to add pressure on your calf);
  • Pause for 1-2 seconds and lower your heel back down;
  • Repeat this movement for 30-60 seconds
  • Repeat the process for your right knee.

See an example of this stretch below:

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Static Lower Calf Stretch

Soleus Stretch

You’re going to do exactly the same for this stretch but without the dynamic movement.

How to perform:

  • Start in a kneeling position;
  • Post your left leg forward and bend your knee;
  • Raise your heel until you feel the tension and hold for 10-30 seconds (you can put your elbows on your left knee to add more pressure on your calf);
  • Repeat the process for your right knee.

Okay so there we have it, 15 leg stretches you should know!

Remember those stretching benefits we talked about at the start of the article? After regularly performing these 15 leg stretches you can:

  • Increase your flexibility;
  • Increase your range of motion;
  • Improve your blood flow;
  • Increase your posture;
  • Improve your physical performance;

Thanks for reading!

Author BioKierran is a qualified personal trainer and owner of https://elitebodylifestyle.com After 15 years of experience in bodybuilding, boxing, and mixed martial arts, Kierran has honed the perfect recipe for elite aesthetics and elite performance.


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