11 Powerful Leg Stretches To Increase Mobility & Flexibility
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Here's a question for you: how often are you really stretching? Stretching is one of the most important parts of your fitness routine, and targeting specific areas of the body can be just as useful as strength training varying muscle groups. In fact, your weightlifting experience (or really any form of exercise you enjoy) will benefit from regular stretching as you improve mobility and flexibility, making it easier to hit deeper muscles in the body.
If you regularly head out for long runs or aim to squat heavy weights at the gym, stretching out your lower body can decrease your risk of injury and enhance the quality of your workout so you can feel strong and limber both in and out of the gym. Even if you were just sitting at your desk all day and need a little release, a nice leg stretch can make a world of difference in ridding your body of pent-up discomfort and negative energy.
Looking to start a more consistent, targeted stretching routine that will loosen up your lower body and set you on the right foot for any workout? We rounded up our 11 favorite trainer-guided moves to get you started on the path to a more flexible body:
World's Greatest Stretch
Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.
- From a high-plank position, step your right foot to the side of your right hand.
- Press your left hand into the ground, and bring your right hand overhead. Twist your body to the right side, and bring your gaze to the lifted fingertips.
- Reverse the movement, and repeat on the opposite side.
- Continue for 30 seconds.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Demonstrated by Danielle Gray.
- Start in a kneeling position, with both legs at a 90-degree angle.
- Press your front heel into the floor, and tuck the toes of your back foot under. Tuck your pelvis.
- Squeeze your rear glutes, and feel like you're dragging the front heel and back knee closer together.
- With the same side arm as the bottom leg, reach up as high as you can and slightly lean toward the side with the leg in front. Maintain engagement.
- Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on other side.
Demonstrated by Phyllicia Bonanno.
- From a downward dog position, reach your right foot up to the sky.
- Bend your knee and bring it in line with your right arm. Bring your right foot to the left side of your body, and allow your shin to rest on the ground.
- Bring your back leg down to the mat, and lift your chest, keeping your hips in one line.
- Hold for a breath, then slowly lower your torso to the ground so it folds over your right leg. Here, you have the option to bring your forehead to the mat.
- Hold for as many breaths as you'd like, then peel your body back up. Come back into downward dog, then repeat on the opposite side.
Demonstrated by Gray.
- Start on one knee with the other leg straight out in front of you with toes pointed toward the ceiling. (You may put your foot and hands against a wall for balance as well as an extra stretch.)
- Keep the back flat or arched as you push your hips back and hinge your chest forward. Think of lengthening forward versus rounding down. Imagine a string pulling your chest toward the wall in front of you.
- Then, bring the front leg across the body for an outer hamstring stretch. Hold for a minute in each position. Repeat on other side.
Demonstrated by Emily Chen.
- From reverse warrior, pivot your body at your torso until it's facing forward.
- Keep your hips square, and bend your back leg to gently lower your knee onto the ground.
- Keep your shoulders aligned over your hips as you sweep your arms up to the sky.
- Hold for 5 deep breaths.
Demonstrated by Bonanno.
- Come into a standing position on your mat.
- Ground down through your left leg. Lift your right knee, and plant your foot onto the thigh.
- Flex your foot, hinge at your hips, and lower into a chair pose.
- Repeat on the opposite side, then move to chaturanga.
- Similar to a typical hamstring stretch, step your right foot forward and flex your foot, like it's a kickstand.
- While sending your hips back, sweep your arms toward your feet like you're scooping something off the ground.
- Sweep your arms up over your head, and return them to your side while stepping your right foot back to meet your left. Repeat with your left foot.
- Continue to alternate for 30 to 60 seconds, until hamstrings feel warmed up and stretched.
Demonstrated by Bonanno.
- Come to a standing position.
- Ground down through your left foot. Bend your right leg behind you. Grab the foot from the big-toe side.
- Reach and extend your left hand up toward the sky. Pull yourself forward. As you open up, push that foot into your hand.
- Hold for a few breaths, then come out of the pose.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, and press up on your toes/balls of your feet as high as you can while still keeping your balance.
- Lower yourself back down, and repeat for 30 seconds, taking your time.
Demonstrated by Juanina Kocher.
- From a seated position, slowly lower down onto your back.
- Allow your knees to fall open with the soles of the feet together, forming a diamond shape with your legs.
- Rest here for 1 to 5 minutes.
- Start by standing, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your right knee up and pull it toward your chest, like you're hugging it.
- Release your right knee, and do the same with the left leg.
- Do this movement, alternating legs, for 30 seconds.
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.