We’re all familiar with that cramped, achy, sometimes even painful feeling of tight leg muscles. It can strike your quads, hamstrings, calves, or — worse — all of the above making you in desperate need of the best leg stretches for sore legs.
Your legs can feel tight for a number of reasons. Leg muscles can stiffen up after sitting for long periods, overdoing it on leg days at the gym, or even as a response to tightness in other parts of the body.
A tight leg muscle every now and then is nothing to worry about, but persistent tightness can create issues like muscle pain, weakness, and imbalance.
Not to mention, constantly feeling stiff and achy can get in the way of doing things you enjoy, whether that’s running, gardening, or bowling.
If you’re tired of tight leg muscles, it’s time to take action with some daily stretches. Including quad, hamstring, and calf stretches in your regular routine can keep your leg muscles lengthened and healthy.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend 30 minutes stretching out unless you want to. Simply setting aside a few minutes to stretch out your legs every day can make a difference in how you move and feel.
Start with our eight best leg stretches for sore legs! Pick one or two stretches from each category or do them all. Either way, your legs will thank you.
Tight Leg Muscles FAQ
You have many options for loosening tight leg muscles. Stretching is one. You can passively hold a leg stretch for 30 seconds or more (static stretching), do controlled movements that put your leg muscles through their full range of motion (dynamic stretching), or any number of other stretching methods. Movement in general can also be helpful for tight leg muscles, especially if they’re stiff from sitting. Try gentle activities like walking, yoga, and swimming. Self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques like foam rolling are another great way to increase joint range of motion and ease tension in tight muscles.
Ideally, stretching your legs every day is beneficial when you’re dealing with sore muscles, but at the very least, stretch them before and after exercise. Just save the static stretches for your cooldown. Warm up with dynamic exercises that move your legs through a full range of motion to help loosen and stretch your leg muscles. Do static leg stretches after your workout to lengthen the quads, hamstrings, and calves and keep them flexible.
Yep! In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says daily stretching is most effective. Don’t feel like you have to dedicate much time to stretching, though. Even a few minutes can make a difference.
Stretching anytime is good but the best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm. After a workout is ideal, but if you aren’t going to workout then even walking around for a few minutes beforehand can warm up your muscles.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends holding a static stretch for 10-30 seconds for most adults. In older individuals, holding a stretch for 30-60s may confer greater benefit toward flexibility.
If your legs feel tight from sitting at your desk for long periods, walking is a great way to stretch them out. Ever get out of the car during a road trip and walk around? It’s the same idea with the tension you build in daily life. Walking fires up your leg muscles and gets the blood moving, doing wonders for tight, stiff legs.
The 8 Best Leg Stretches
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Keep these leg stretches in your back pocket and pull them out anytime you need relief from muscle tightness. As mentioned above, be sure to save any stretches you have to hold for after exercise. Or, at the very least, walk around for a few minutes beforehand so your muscles are warm.
1. Standing Quad Stretch
- Stand near a wall. Place your right hand on the wall for support and grasp your left ankle with your left hand.
- Gently pull your left heel up and back until you feel a stretch in the front of your left thigh.
- Keep your knees close and hold for 30 seconds.
- Switch sides.
2. Prone Quad Stretch
- Lie on your stomach with your upper body supported on your forearms.
- Bend your left knee and grab your ankle with your left hand. Pull your foot toward your butt until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your left thigh.
- Breathe fully and hold for 30 seconds.
- Release your left foot and repeat on the opposite side.
3. Pigeon Pose
- Begin in a plank position.
- Tighten your abdominals and pull your right knee toward your right hand. Set your knee on the floor and try to place your right foot as close to your left hand as possible.
- Let your left leg stay long as you relax into your hips.
- Breathe and hold for 30 seconds. Try to keep your hips level.
- Step back into plank and switch sides.
- From a standing position, soften your knees and bend forward to place both hands on the floor in front of your feet. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Keeping your feet in place, walk your hands forward until you’re in a plank position.
- Walk your hands back to your feet and stand up.
- Do 5-8 reps.
2. Lying Hamstring Stretch
- Lay flat with one leg in the air. Wrap a resistance band around your foot.
- Keep a little tension on the band and pul your toes towards your nose to feel the stretch.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds..
- Switch legs. Do 3 sets per side.
3. Downward Dog
- Begin in a kneeling position on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders, fingers spread wide.
- Tuck your toes under and engage your abdominals as you push yourself off the floor. Only your hands and feet should be on the floor.
- Press through your hands. Bring your chest gently toward your thighs and your heels gently toward the floor.
- Relax your neck and head. Breathe fully.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
1. Standing Wall Stretch
- Stand a couple of feet away from a wall.
- Place both hands on the wall and step forward with the right foot.
- Bend both knees and press your heels into the floor.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds.
- Switch legs. Do 3 sets per side.
- To deepen the stretch, try to keep your heels on the ground while you bend and straighten the legs.
2. Seated Calf Stretch With a Resistance Band
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Wrap a resistance band (with or without handles) securely around the arch of one foot.
- With your foot flexed, pull the band toward you so there is tension on the band at all times.
- Sitting tall, point your toes toward the ground to create a stretch through your calf. Then pull your toes toward you to flex your foot.
- Continue to pull the band tight and alternate pointing and flexing your toes for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the opposite foot. Do 3-5 sets per side.
Try these stretches for sore legs whenever you need relief!