You’ve mustered up the energy to hit the gym, try a new workout class, or head out on a long run this week. In other words, you’re crushing this whole #FitLife thing. But did you take the time to stretch before and after your workout?
If the answer is “no,” we get it: Carving out an extra 5 minutes for a stretch session may fall pretty low on your list of priorities. But just a few minutes of stretching could mean a much quicker recovery and way less soreness the next day.
Stretching can increase flexibility,
“The key to improving performance with stretching and increased mobility is to do it regularly,” she says. Stumped about where to begin? Campbell curated these 19 lower-body stretches to help you get started.
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Remember, you want to stretch to the point of mild discomfort, not pain. Never, ever bounce during a stretch, either. Just chill out and enjoy the process.
The list is broken up into two sections: warmup moves and cooldown moves. Before a workout, choose 5 moves from the warmup section and perform each for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 3 times as necessary.
After a workout, choose 5 moves from the cooldown section and perform each for 15 to 60 seconds. Repeat 4 times.
You can also scroll to the bottom of this page to check out the stretch series certified trainer Kara Faulk put together for us.
1. Lunge with a twist
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Take a huge step forward with left foot and lower until left knee is bent to 90 degrees. Keep right leg straight.
Place both hands on the floor, on either side of left foot, for support. This is a runner’s lunge position. Twist to the left from your waist as you draw left hand up and gaze up toward the ceiling.
You’ll feel this in your right hip flexor, lower back, and glutes. Return hand to starting position and repeat on the other leg.
2. Triangle stretch
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ll recognize this pose. Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart. Keep left toes straight and rotate right thigh out until right toes point to the side.
Keeping both legs straight, ground through your feet and lift through your thighs. Spread arms wide at shoulder height, roll front thigh open, and hinge at front hip.
Lengthen spine toward front foot and release right palm to right shin, right ankle, or the floor. Repeat on the other side.
3. Wall calf stretch
Stand facing a wall. Shift your weight to left leg and place right toes up on the wall with heel on the floor. Rest hands on the wall for support.
Slowly lean toward the wall to feel the stretch in your calf deepen. Gently push into left leg for more depth. Hold, then repeat on the other leg.
4. Child’s Pose
Start kneeling on all fours. Send hips back to sit on heels, toes touching, forehead to the floor, belly resting between legs. Reach arms straight out in front of you to feel a stretch in your lower back.
For a deeper stretch: Slowly walk hands to right side to feel stretch along left side body, then walk hands to left side to feel stretch along right side body.
5. Walking toe touch
To warm up those hammies, start standing. Bring right leg straight out in front of you and reach left fingertips out to touch right toes. Keep a tall posture (don’t lean forward).
If you can’t reach your toes, just get as close as possible. Alternate legs as you walk forward. Basically, just pretend you’re a toy solider and you’ll be good to go.
6. Walking knee hug
Start standing. Draw right knee up to chest and grab shin with hands to pull knee close to your body.
Return to starting position and repeat with left knee as you walk forward. Continue to alternate. You should feel this most in the front of your hips.
You might not like ’em, but squats are one of the best moves to activate your glutes. Stand with feet just wider than hip width, hips stacked over knees, knees over ankles.
Hinge at hips, then send hips back and bend knees to lower your body. Keep chest lifted and lower to at least 90 degrees. You can raise your arms in front of you for balance if you want. Rise and repeat.
8. Bridge Pose
Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Press into heels and use butt to lift hips up, forming a straight line from shoulders to knees.
Shimmy shoulders underneath you for support. You may even want to interlace your fingers underneath your lower back. Slowly lower hips back down and repeat.
9. Three-legged Down Dog with hip stretch
Show your legs some love with this variation on a classic yoga pose. Start in Downward-Facing Dog (hands and feet on the floor, hips straight up to create a V-shape with your body).
Ground through feet and lift through thighs. Reach hips away from hands to lengthen the sides of your torso. Then lift left leg up toward the ceiling.
To add a hip stretch, open hips to left side and bend left knee to bring foot toward your glutes. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.
10. Forearm lunge
Start in a runner’s lunge position: From standing, take a big step forward with right leg and bend knee at a 90-degree angle, knee stacked directly over ankle. Keep left leg straight and back tall.
You’ll feel this in your left hip flexor. If this is enough of a stretch for you, stop there. If you have more flexibility, bend at your waist and bring hands to the floor on the inside of right leg.
For a deeper stretch: Bend elbows to get forearms down to the floor until you feel the stretch. Repeat on the other side as flexibility allows.
11. Quad stretch from lunge
Start by lowering into a lunge position: Take a step forward with right foot and lower your body until right thigh is parallel to the floor and knee is stacked over ankle. Rest left knee on the floor.
Draw left foot to glute and reach back with left arm to grab top of foot. Pull foot as close to butt as possible to feel a stretch in your quad. Repeat on the other side.
Optional: You can use a blanket to cushion the knee resting on the floor.
12. Hamstring and calf stretch
Start standing and take a small step forward with left leg. With a slight bend in right knee, hinge at hips and fold over straight left leg, resting fingertips on the floor for support.
You should feel a stretch along the back of your left leg. Flex ankle and use hands to pull left toes toward you to deepen the stretch in your calf. Hold, then repeat on the other leg.
13. Pigeon stretch
While the name may not sound that appealing, Pigeon is likely to be your new favorite stretch. This is another yoga classic.
Start in a Downward-Facing Dog. Bring right leg forward and lay right shin down on the mat with right foot flexed and knee bent. Try to get your shin as parallel to the short side of the mat as possible.
Keep left leg straight out behind you with top of foot on the floor. Keep hips forward and down to keep your foot from rolling out to the side. Hold, then repeat on the other leg.
For a deeper stretch: Crawl fingertips forward as far as possible to fold torso over right leg.
14. Seated twist
Start seated with legs stretched out in front of you. Bend right leg and cross it over left leg, placing right foot on the floor near left knee. Twist from your hips and place left elbow on the outside of right knee. Repeat on the other side.
For a deeper stretch: Push into your knee to deepen the twist. You’ll feel it along the outer side of your right thigh.
15. Tuck stretch
Lie faceup on the mat and draw both knees to chest. Place hands on knees to pull them close to body. Roll ankles clockwise and then counterclockwise. You should feel a nice stretch in front of hips and mobility in your ankle joints.
For a deeper stretch: Bring your feet up toward the ceiling and draw them away from each other. Grab the outer edges of your feet with your hands. This is Happy Baby pose in yoga.
16. Hip drop stretch
Lie faceup with both legs straight out in front of you. Draw left knee to chest, then guide knee over to right side, across right hip, as you straighten left leg.
You should feel a pull in the left side of your butt. Hold, then repeat on the opposite side.
17. Supine quad stretch
Start in a lunge position with left leg forward. Bring right knee down to the floor. Sit back onto your butt and straighten your left leg. Sitting up straight may be enough for you. If so, hold, then repeat on the other leg.
For a deeper stretch: Slowly walk hands back away from you as you lower down to the floor. For those of us not made of rubber, this is a really deep stretch for the quad. Lower all the way down only if flexibility allows.
18. Cross-legged hip stretch
Nope, not time for a nap yet.
Start lying faceup with knees bent so your legs form a tabletop position. Cross left leg over right (as if you were crossing your legs while sitting in a chair) and grab opposite feet with hands.
Pull legs toward you to feel a stretch deep in your hips. Switch positions of legs and repeat.
19. Standing quad stretch
Stand tall next to a chair or wall for support, feet hip-width apart. Shift weight to left leg, with a slight bend in left knee.
Reach back and grab right foot with right hand, then draw knee forward so hips and knees are in line. Hold, then repeat on the other leg. Imagining you’re an Olympic ice skater might help.
Perform each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. If you’re super sore, repeat the series 2 to 3 times as needed.
Special thanks to trainer Kara Faulk for demonstrating the moves.