Stretches for Flexibility: Soothe + Strengthen Muscles

Key Points

  • Stretches for flexibility can prevent injuries and promote faster recovery. 

  • Dynamic stretching happens before a workout, while static stretching occurs afterward.

  • Leg stretches for flexibility soothe sore muscles.

While yoga classes are great for getting your stretch on, they don’t always hit the spots you need most. Stretches for flexibility benefit everyone, regardless of fitness level.

Do your leg muscles desperately demand some TLC? Check out the stretches for flexibility to relieve your hips, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. 

Why Stretching Is Important

Stretching doesn’t just improve your flexibility (although that’s definitely a nice perk).

It also helps you avoid debilitating injuries and promotes faster recovery between workouts. Stretching relaxes and elongates your muscles. When your muscles are fluid and flexible, they’re less likely to tear or strain. 

DPT and clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy Sasha Cyrelson explains: "Tight muscles can cause undue stress on the neighboring joints during normal daily function, or they themselves can become injured."

Cyrelson adds, “We need to take an active role in maintaining and improving the length of our muscles so we can continue to enjoy our abilities without pain.”

Stretching lower body

Pro Tip: Small, microscopic muscle tears are normal during exercise, but large ones are not. Tiny tears cause your tissues to rebuild stronger muscle, which is the end goal of training.

Broad muscle tears are injuries requiring an extended rest and recovery period. They usually stem from overtraining, under-recovery, and pushing yourself too hard for too long. 

Stretching is part of a balanced fitness routine. Exercising contracts (shortens) your muscles. Stretching does the opposite. It alleviates achiness, reduces tension, loosens tight muscles, and helps you achieve a wider range of motion. 

Stretching corrects your posture, relieves pain and soreness, and prevents muscle loss. It increases blood circulation and nutrients to your joints, boosting exercise performance. When you can recruit more muscle fibers, you squat lower, jump higher, last longer, and knock out more reps overall.

Bonus? Stretching makes daily activities easier. Carrying groceries into the kitchen, climbing the stairs, and getting that final stubborn corner of a fitted sheet on your mattress isn’t as exhausting.

Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching

Dynamic stretching is active, controlled movements that mimic your exercise activity. It’s a functional type of stretching that enhances your speed, agility, and endurance. Dynamic stretching moves your limbs through their full range of motion, decreasing muscle stiffness and increasing mobility. 

Static stretching involves holding a standing, sitting, or lying down position for a designated timeframe (typically 45 seconds or less). You move a muscle as far as possible during a static stretch without feeling pain. From there, you breathe methodically while holding your stance. Release and repeat as needed. 

Dynamic and static stretches affect your body differently and fulfill specific purposes. Dynamic stretches involve motion, while static stretches are still. Dynamic stretches prepare your muscles for a workout, while static stretches jumpstart your recovery. 

Girl stretching her muscles

Dynamic stretches warm you up. Static stretches cool you down. 

Pro Tip: Dynamic stretching is essential before running, cycling, and playing sports. 

Beginner Lower Body Stretches

Do you want to upgrade your flexibility? Soothe your tight, sore muscles? Learn how to recover better between workouts?

Grab a yoga mat and get started with these beginner-friendly stretches. 


Too many leg days, sitting for extended periods, and poor posture lead to tight hip flexors. Activities with repetitive circular motions only worsen things if you’re not recuperating correctly. 

Your hip muscles rotate and raise your legs. You activate your hips whenever you sit, stand, or step forward.

Dynamic: Fire Hydrants

Fire hydrants are a great bodyweight exercise that primarily targets your hips, glutes, and core. Bonus? They relieve lower back pain.

Start by dropping to the floor on your hands and knees. Press your legs together, align your shoulders with your hands, and position your hips above your knees. 

Squeeze your abs and face down. Lift your right leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Maintain a 90-degree bend with your leg. Once it reaches hip height, lower your leg to the ground. Repeat on the left side. 

Reps: 10

Sets: Two to three 

Performing dynamic stretches

Static: Seated Hip Stretch

The seated hip stretch fires up your hip flexors and releases tension in your glutes. It’s incredibly satisfying.

Begin by sitting down. Plant your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands a few inches behind you on the mat. Your fingertips face your body. 

Press your palms and feet into the ground to elevate your hips. Lift your right leg and turn your knee outward. Land your right ankle just above your left knee. 

Slowly ease your hips back to the floor. To intensify the stretch, lean your chest forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg. 


Fun Fact: Glutes are the largest muscle in your entire body!

Strong glutes increase hip mobility, keep you upright, and push your body forward. They’re imperative for walking, running, squatting, and ascending stairs.

Dynamic: Glute Bridges

Glute bridges benefit your hamstrings, lower back, and abs. They’re a little awkward to perform in public, but the strength and stability gains are worth it.

Start by lying flat on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet hip-width apart. Rest your arms at your sides.

Press your heels into your mat. Squeeze your glutes together as you lift your pelvis away from the floor. Form a straight line with your body from your chin to your knees. Your head, shoulders, feet, and hands are the only limbs touching the ground. 

Return your pelvis to starting position and repeat.

Reps: 15 to 20

Sets: One to three

Static: Half-Pigeon Stretch

The half-pigeon stretches the muscles and tendons around your spine, opens your chest, and stimulates your glutes, hip flexors, and rotators. Talk about a triple threat!

Begin by setting both hands on your mat, slightly outside your shoulders. Rest on the balls of your feet with both legs behind you. 

Slowly drop your left shin to the floor and keep your foot flexed. Release your right leg, bend your knee, and drive it forward. Rest your right shin on your mat. Keep your torso upright and exhale as you sink further into your hips. 

Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg. 

Woman stretching her legs


Not-so-fun fact: Strained hamstrings are the most common sports injury.

These injury-prone muscles reside at the back of your thigh. Hamstrings run from your hips to below your knees. They’re responsible for walking, running, bending, and extending your legs.

Dynamic: Runner’s Lunge With Reach

PSA: Your hamstrings will love you after this stretch.

Start in a high plank position. Activate your core and stack your shoulders above your hands. Drive your right knee up to your chest and place your foot on the outside of your right hand. 

From your runner’s lunge, press into your left hand, rotate your torso, and extend your right arm toward the ceiling. Gaze at your fingertips. Hold for a few seconds, breathe, and exhale. Return your right arm to the mat and repeat all steps with the left. 

Continue for 45 to 60 seconds, alternating sides.

Static: Lying Hamstring Stretch

Tight hammies? This one’s for you.

Begin by lying flat on your back with both legs extended. To stretch your right hamstring, lift your leg, hold the back of your knee with both hands and slowly pull your leg toward you. Try to keep your leg as straight as possible. 

The moment you feel a stretching sensation, stop and hold the position. Lower the leg and repeat several times, then switch to the left side. 

Challenge: To deepen the stretch, wrap a physical therapy exercise band around the ball of your foot. Gently pull the band with both hands until you feel slight tension in your hamstring. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, repeat, and switch sides.


Have you ever had a profoundly traumatizing Charley horse? Oof! The pain. That’s the result of tight calves. 

Your calves contain two muscles: the gastrocnemius and soleus. They stretch from the back of your knee to your heel. Calves allow you to point or flex your toes.

Stretching lower body

Dynamic: Standing Calf Raises

Standing calf raises are a simple, low-impact exercise that improves balance and decreases your risk of foot and ankle injuries.

Stand shoulder-width apart (with your toes pointing forward) on your yoga mat. Roll your shoulders back, straighten your spine, and brace your core.

Slowly raise your heels, keeping your knees straight but not locked. Lift as high up on your toes as possible and pause. Lower your heels flat to the floor and repeat.

Reps: 15 to 20

Sets: Two to three

Static: Seated Calf Stretch With Band

Begin sitting with your legs extended. Loop a stretching strap or band around the middle of your foot and hold it with both hands.

Keeping your heel on the floor, gently pull your toes toward you until you feel a mild muscle stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs. Repeat as needed.

Stretching Safety Tips

There’s a key difference between stretching that hurts so good and stretching that just hurts. At worst, it feels mildly uncomfortable. Aim for tolerable tension and avoid movements that lead to sharp, shooting pain. 

  • Always stop (or ease off) when you feel pain.

  • Be mindful of existing injuries before stretching specific muscles.

  • Be consistent (stretch at least three to four times weekly).

  • Practice good form and posture.

  • Intentional breathing helps you let go. 

  • Start small and gentle. 

  • Don’t rush through your stretches.

Stretching before a run

Basic Stretches Are Not-So-Basic

Stretching can feel tedious, uncomfortable, and time-consuming. However, it’s a serious game-changer for your fitness routine. Stretching relieves stiff muscles, expedites recovery, transforms your workout experience, and supports robust mental health.

Treat your muscles like royalty — they reward you for it. 

Subscribe to Fit&Fab for fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, and more updates.

Was this article helpful?

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Top 3 Stories