Are you looking to increase the flexibility in your legs? This routine will go over; stretching your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. When we are training for sport-specific flexibility poses such as the front splits, the adductors, and ITB band are generally not targeted, and remain tight. These 21 stretches will stretch all the muscle groups in the leg and are beginner-friendly.
Discomfort In the Legs
When one muscle becomes tight it affects the entire group of muscles. When an entire group of muscles is affected then it affects other surrounding muscle groups. Such as; if the muscle group in the hips becomes tight this tension affects the hip flexors which flows onto the quadriceps. As you can see that one single imbalance can begin to snowball onto many other muscle groups creating immense disharmony in the body.
This guide will help you unlock and elongate all of the muscle groups in your legs. The best part they are beginner-friendly.
Beginner Hamstring Stretches
The hamstrings are a large group of muscles that are located on the posterior (back) of the thigh. This group is composed from three main muscles being the bicep femoris, semitendinous and semimbranosus.
We use these muscles everyday to walk run and get from A to B.
If you are suffering from extremely tight hamstrings then jump on over to my 11 lengthening hamstring stretches to relieve some of that tension.
Otherwise let’s get on with it and start our beginner leg stretches.
Basic Beginner Hamstring Stretches
A forward fold is a beginner hamstring stretch. There are a few variations that you can take to meet your level of flexibility. When the hamstrings become tight you may find that the enitre back line is tight too. That is why some people struggle to touch their toes.
If you can’t get your legs to lay flat on the floor in a seated, you should start with a wide-angle forward fold. (Pictured above.)
- Standing on both feet hip-width apart.
- Inhale sweep your arms above your head.
- Exhale fold forward from the hips.
Forward Fold Seated
- Sitting with both in front of you.
- Inhale sweep your forward with the aim to touch your toes.
- Ensure that you are folding forward from the hips.
Calf and Hamstring stretch
- In a seated position take one leg in front of you and the other leg stays close to the body.
- Fold from the hips and grab your foot. If you are not flexible enough you can use a strap.
- Gently draw the toes closer towards your body using your hand or strap to apply a little pressure.
- Step the feet wide apart 4-5 feet.
- The left foot turns all the way to the front of the room.
- The right foot faces the front of the room.
- Inhale pull your arms apart, sweep your left arm forward on the in-breath.
- Exhale rotate and lower towards the front leg.
- Place your hand to shin or big toe.
- Squeeze firmly with your right hand.
- Bring your heart to the front leg and draw your hips to the front leg.
- Gaze up at your right thumb.
- Extend your spine forward through the crown of your head into the hips.
- Turn your heart and chest up to the sky.
- To come out a release that bottom hand and lift the spine.
Assisted Hamstring Stretch
- From a standing position lift the right leg.
- Gently raise it so that your heel meets the bar.
- Don’t push it, if it is too high try a bench or something that is lower.
- Folding forward from the hips and gently rounding the spine.
- Reach for your toes.
- Gently flex the foot and apply pressure with your hand to draw the foot towards you.
The hip flexors generally are very tight on office workers or any job that keeps you at a desk. This is because sitting all day shortens them. Couple that with the hip flexors being incredibly hard to stretch, this can wreak havoc on your back and cause discomfort and pain.
Try the four beginner’s leg and hip flexor stretches below to lengthen and strengthen.
- Inhale step the right foot forward.
- Exhale bring the left knee to the floor.
- Ensure that the right knee is over the right ankle.
- Let your body gently sink into your hips
- If you want to take it deeper bring your hands to meet the floor.
- Ensure that they are both on the inside of the leg in line with your shoulders.
- (Don’t raise the front heel like in the above pic)
Thigh and Quadriceps Stretches
- Staying in the same position
- Bend the left knee and draw your heel towards the glute
- Reach around with the right hand and grab the back foot.
Hip Flexor Strengthener
- Staying in the above position.
- Release the back leg and allow it to drop to the floor.
- Engage the leg and press the top of your foot into the floor.
- Allow it to lift the entire leg off the floor just leaving the top of the foot for support.
The adductors are a group of muscles that stabilize the hips and attach the pelvis to the femur known as the thigh bone. This fan-like group of muscles which is part of the functional lines of the body.
The adductor’s primary functionality is to adduct, flex and rotate the thigh. The adductors can strain easily, so it is important to take it slow and have a disciplined conditioning program as part of your beginner’s leg stretching routine.
- Coming to a seated position with your legs in front of you and bend your knees.
- Activating your hamstrings, squeeze your heels towards your groin.
- Take your knees wide apart and place your feet on the floor as close to your groin as you can.
- Inhale and interlace the tips of your fingers over your toes, use your thumbs to pry open the soles of your feet, like pages of a book
Assisted Adductor Stretch
- Laying on the floor in the supine position.
- Bring one foot upwards so that it is in line with the hip.
- Take that leg out to the side keeping the knee straight.
- Allow the legs to gently open.
- Repeat four times on both sides
Outer Hamstring Stretch
- From a standing position.
- Take the legs wide.
- Inhale fold forward from the hips.
- When you reach your forward fold.
- Gently bring your right arm to your outer left leg.
- You should feel a deep stretch in your bicep femoris (a fancy word for your outer hamstring.)
The large portion of the muscle in the buttocks is the Gluteus Maximus. The piriformis is one of the major muscles that support the head of the femur. It is also one of the muscles that can give what might feel like gluteal pain coming from the hip joint. That is why tight glutes can be mistaken for a tight piriformis.
Thankfully we have some beginner friendly stretches to combat that pain in the butt. Pun intended.
Shoe Lace pose
- From a seated position.
- Bring one leg in front of you.
- Knee in line with the hip.
- Ankle in line with the opposite hip.
- Foot remains flexed to prevent the knee from injury.
- The second leg stacks on top of the lower leg at a right angle.
- Ankle on top of knee.
- Knee on top of ankle.
- To deepen the pose fold your torso forward.
Vastus Lateralis Strech
- From a seated position with both legs wide.
- Bring the right foot towards the left glute.
- Making a triangle shape.
- Gently grab the left foot and give the leg a little rock back and forth warming up the hip joint.
- Gently stack the left leg on top of the right with the aim to have the knees stacked on each other.
- This is a challenging pose if your trying to stack them perfectly.
- The good news is take the leg to where it allows you too. (Check out the guy on the left of the image)
- Repeat on the opposite side.
There are a few key differences between deer pose and pigeon pose. Deer pose your front leg is at a complete right angle.
- Bring the front foot to a right angle.
- Knee inline with hip, ankle inline with knee.
- The foot remains flexed to protect the knee.
- You can leave the back leg unengaged behind you.
- If you can roll over onto the hip without compromising the angle of your front foot the do so.
Supine Adductor Stretch
- Laying down on your back.
- Using your hand or a strap depending on your level of flexibility.
- Bring the leg up and away from the body until you feel a good stretch in the inner thigh (aka adductor).
Upright Adductor Stretch
- From a standing position.
- Gently begin moving your legs away from your body.
- As a beginner I do not expect you to be able to get your forearms on the floor like the photo above.
- You can use props to assist you in this position.
- For instance you can use two blocks for your hands to elevate your chest and torso, or you may use a lounge for support.
- Go with what is best for your body.
Engaged Adductor Stretch
- From a standing position.
- Gently move the right leg away from the body.
- As the right leg extends begin bending the left knee.
- Think a squat or seated in a chair position.
- Stay strong in the left leg.
- The further you extend your right leg the deeper stretch.
Standing Assisted Adductor Stretch
- You will need to use a prop for this stretch.
- I personally use a chair or a bench (like the kitchen bench) to complete this stretch.
- From a standing position turn your toes out with heels touching.
- Gently raise the right leg.
- Keep your left foot planted on the floor in a turned out position.
- Bring the heel to your prop and gently rest it.
- Keeping the groin close to the bar/prop.
- To stretch the side lines bring your left arm to meet your right foot.
The ITB band is not a muscle it is connective tissue. Iliotibial band syndrome occurs when the connective tissue (ligament) extending from the pelvic bone to the shinbone becomes so tight that it rubs against the thighbone.
You will generally feel pain behind the knee or experience shin splits if your ITB is very tight. I always call this stretch bittersweet! Why because it hurts like hell but it is so good for you.
- From the adductor stretch position bring your leg across the body keeping it in line with the hip.
- To make it deeper you can bring the leg up a little higher.
- Resist into the strap for three seconds and passively stretch for ten.
- Each time trying to gain a little more range of motion.
- Repeat on both legs.
Supine Glute Stretch
- Come to a seated position on the floor with bent knees.
- Lay down with a flat back and ensure your lower back is flat to the mat. We don’t want the hips to be tilting downward.
- Bring your ankle to meet just below the knee in a right angle position. You want to keep the foot flexed at all times to protect the knee.
- Bring your hands around the leg with the foot on the floor. In this instance, it is the left leg. Your hands want to reach around until they meet your shins.
- Draw the shin towards your chest keeping it in the same plane. You should feel a good stretch here.
Now it’s time to repeat this sequence on the opposite side of the body.
I wanted to say a big thank you for joining me on the mat today. Your lower body should be feeling much looser and you may even notice your back pain residing. Try to implement this practice three times a week. You will begin to see physiological changes after four weeks. And feel the benefits straight away!
What did you think of my 21 beginner leg stretches? Have one to add, drop it in the comments below.
Stay long and limber,
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Vanessa is a fitness instructor that specializes in yoga and aerial arts. With over five years of international teaching experience Vanessa likes to focus on feel good fitness and flexibility. You can read more of her articles on her blog www.jadorevanessa.com