Leg Day Isn't Complete Until You Do These Flexibility-Increasing Stretches
You feel so badass after doing heavy squats and deadlifts, but you know your body is going to pay big time with the postlifting soreness later. As a 200-hour certified yoga teacher, I explain to students that stretching can alleviate the intense soreness that makes it hard to walk down stairs after leg day, and can also increase flexibility, which can help prevent injury when you lift next time. Plus stretching helps lower your heart rate after an intense workout, and reduces stress.
After your leg workout, don’t wait until later to do these stretches – you know you’re more likely to skip! After that last rep, slip off your sneakers, unroll a yoga mat, and do these stretches that target your hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, shins, hips, and lower back. They’ll feel so good even if you only have time for a few minutes. Pick a few of your favourite hamstring stretches, quad stretches, and calf stretches, or do all 18 to keep your muscles supple.
Lower-Body Stretches to Do After Leg Day
Here’s a list of the most effective leg stretches. Just click on the name of the stretch to learn how to do it.
- Extended Wide Squat
- Down Dog
- Tip-Toe 3-Legged Dog
- Low Crescent Lunge
- Open Lizard
- Lifted Head to Knee
- Head to Knee
- Seated Straddle
- Double Pigeon
- Side Lunge
- Seated Forward Bend
- Happy Baby
- Reclining Big Toe Pose
- Figure 4
- Wide Child’s Pose
- Half Wheel
- Lying Spinal Twist
Hip and Lower Back Stretch: Extended Wide Squat
How to Do Extended Wide Squat Stretch:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips down toward the ground. If your heels don’t touch the ground, roll up a towel or the back of your mat and place it under your heels for support.
- Bring your palms together at your heart center and firmly press your elbows against the insides of your knees. This will help to open your hips even further.
- After five breaths, release your hands to the floor and walk them away from your feet to increase the stretch in your hips and lower back. Hold for another five breaths.
Hamstring and Calf Stretch: Down Dog
How to Do Down Dog Stretch:
- Rise from your hands and feet into the classic upside-down-V shape called Downward Dog.
- Take five breaths here.
Hamstring and Calf Stretch: Tip-Toe 3-Legged Dog
How to Do Tip-Toe 3-Legged Dog Stretch:
- From Downward Dog, step your feet together so your big toes are touching, and raise your right leg into the air, rising up onto your left toes.
- Hold for five breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch: Low Crescent Lunge
How to Do Low Crescent Lunge Stretch:
- Come into a low lunge with your right knee forward.
- Inhale to raise your arms up, sinking your pelvis toward the floor to intensify the stretch in your hips. Or rest your hands on your hips if that’s more comfortable.
- Enjoy this stretch for five breaths, then repeat with your left knee forward.
Hip and Quad Stretch: Open Lizard
How to Do Open Lizard Stretch:
- Come into a lunge position with your right knee forward. Lower your left knee to the floor and rest your hands on the ground under your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your right knee to the right so you’re resting on the outside of your flexed right foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward to increase the stretch.
- Hold like this for five breaths, then repeat on the left side.
Hamstring Stretch: Lifted Head to Knee
How to Do Lifted Head to Knee Stretch:
- Kneel on the ground and straighten your right leg in front of you.
- Fold forward over your extended leg, enjoying this stretch for five deep breaths.
Hamstring Stretch: Head to Knee
How to Do Head to Knee Stretch:
- Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Bend your left knee and pull the sole of your foot against your right inner thigh.
- Sitting with a tall spine, reach both hands to your right foot and stack your torso on top of your right thigh. If you can’t reach your hands to your foot, rest your hands on your shin or knee. Try not to round your back.
- Stay here for at least five breaths, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Then do the other side.
Hamstring and Lower Back Stretch: Seated Straddle
How to Do Seated Straddle Stretch:
- Sit down with your feet about three to four feet apart (not as wide as you can go). Reach back with your right hand and move the flesh of your right bum cheek away from you, then do the same with your left. This will help your pelvis ground more firmly so you can stretch your hamstrings more effectively.
- Sit tall, reaching your head away from your hips, and draw your belly and ribs in. Keep that length as you begin to fold forward at your waist, sliding your hands down your legs or on the floor in front of your head.
- Go down as far as you need to feel a stretch in your hamstrings, but you don’t want to feel pain.
- Hold here for five breaths. Then walk your hands over to your right leg, hold for another five breaths, and then repeat over the left leg.
Hip and Lower Back Stretch: Butterfly
How to Do Butterfly Stretch:
- Sit on the ground, bend both knees, and bring your feet together. Using your hands, open your feet up like a book. Use your leg muscles to press your knees down toward the floor.
- Lengthen your spine, drawing your belly button inward. Relax your shoulders and gaze either in front of you or toward your feet. Stay here for five breaths, then slowly fold forward, drawing your torso toward your legs. Remember to try to keep your spine straight.
- Rest your hands on your feet, pressing your knees down with your arms, or if you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you. Stay here for another five breaths.
Hip Stretch: Double Pigeon
How to Do Double Pigeon Stretch:
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee and place your knee, shin, and foot on the floor so they’re parallel with your pelvis. Bend your right knee, and place it on top so your knees, shins, and ankles are stacked. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you gaze down and see that your legs make a little triangle.
- You may find your top knee to be high up toward the ceiling. It’s OK! It just means that your hips are tight, so just stay where you are and breathe.
- To make this pose more intense, place your hands in front of your shins and walk them out as far as you can, folding your chest toward your legs.
- Stay here for five breaths, slowly release, then switch legs so your left knee is on top.
Inner Thigh Stretch: Side Lunge
How to Do Side Lunge Stretch:
- Stand with your feet out wide, about four feet apart.
- Bend your right leg, coming into a low side lunge.
- Keep your torso in between your legs or fold over your left leg.
- Stay here for five breaths, then shift to the other side for another five.
Hamstring Stretch: Seated Forward Bend
How to Do Seated Forward Bend Stretch:
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Make your spine as long as you can.
- Slowly hinge at your hips, lowering your torso toward your thighs. Maintain a straight back and fold as far as you need to feel a nice stretch in your back and hamstrings. Don’t worry about folding your body completely in half unless this is comfortable for you.
- Stay like this for five deep breaths.
Quad and Shin Stretch: Lying Side Quad Stretch
How to Do Lying Side Quad Stretch:
- Lie down on one side and prop your head up with your hand. Pull your foot toward your butt, and bend your bottom knee if you’re having trouble staying steady.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Hip Stretch: Happy Baby
How to Do Happy Baby Stretch:
- Lie flat on your back. Bend both knees and hold the outside edges of your flexed feet with your hands. Keep your arms on the outsides of your legs.
- Gently use your upper-body strength to equally press both knees to the floor below your armpits. Try not to tense your shoulders or chest, but keep everything relaxed.
- Stay here for five deep breaths.
Hamstring and Lower Back Stretch: Reclining Big Toe Pose
How to Do Reclining Big Toe Pose Stretch:
- Lying on your back, bend your right knee slightly and plant your foot on the floor. Raise your left leg into the air, keeping your pelvis grounded. Hold your lower thigh or place a strap over the arch of your foot.
- Keep your torso relaxed and hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Hip Stretch: Figure 4
How to Do Figure 4 Stretch:
- Lie on your back with both legs in the air. Place your left ankle on your right thigh above your knee. See the shape of the number four? It is there, just upside down.
- Reach your left hand through the open space created by your left leg and place both hands on your right shin. Slowly bend your right knee toward your chest. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip.
- After five breaths, repeat on the other side.
Hip and Lower Back Stretch: Wide Child's Pose
How to Do Wide Child’s Pose Stretch:
- Come onto your hands and knees, then sit back between your heels, exhaling as you lower your belly between your knees, coming into a Wide Child’s Pose.
- Hold for five breaths.
Lower Back Stretch: Half Wheel
How to Do Half Wheel Stretch:
- Lie flat on your back with your arms along the sides of your body and your palms facing down. Bend your knees, placing your heels as close as you can to your bum.
- With your palms and feet pressing firmly into the ground, lift your hips up. Keep your palms on the mat or clasp your hands together below your pelvis, extending through your arms. Or you can also bend your elbows and rest your hands on your lower back. If your feet are close enough, you can also hold your ankles.
- Stay here for five deep breaths, lifting your hips up as high as you can.
Lower Back Stretch: Lying Spinal Twist
How to Do Lying Spinal Twist Stretch:
- Lie on your back, bending your knees into your chest.
- Extend your arms out in Cactus Pose with your elbows at right angles, palms facing up.
- Slowly lower both knees to the left. Rest them on the ground and turn your head to the right.
- Hold here for at least five breaths, feeling your spine lengthen and twist. You may even hear some cracks.
- Use your abs to lift your knees back to center. Slowly lower both knees to the right and look over your left shoulder, holding for another five breaths.