Stretching Exercises for Tight Leg Muscles

Many people suffer from tight leg muscles. A very common cause of leg tightness is due to the amount of time we spend sitting throughout the work day. As our knees are bent in this position, the muscles that flex the knee joint become used to being in this shortened position. We also tend to get a little tighter as we age and our muscles lose a bit of water content and extensibility.

If you feel like your leg muscles are tight, you may benefit from working with a physical therapist to improve your flexibility. Your PT can show you exercises you can do to help improve your overall lower extremity mobility and flexibility.


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Tight leg muscles can predispose you to injury during daily and recreational activities, and may even contribute to the development of back pain in some cases. To prevent this, it is important to stretch your legs to loosen tight muscles.

These leg stretching exercises incorporate all the major muscle groups of the lower extremities. Be sure to check in with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.

Leg Stretches

Leg stretches can help relieve tight, stiff muscles and increase your flexibility. You can do leg stretches on their own or as part of a post-workout cooldown to boost recovery. Below you will learn how to do various leg stretches and why they work.

Hamstring Stretches

Hamstring Stretch & Calf Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The hamstring muscles travel from the pelvis to the back of each knee, and help to flex the knee and extend the hip. These muscles often get tight from sitting for long periods throughout the day.

Performing a hamstring stretch routine daily can help improve the way your hamstrings move. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and be sure to relax as you stretch. You can do the standing hamstring stretch almost anytime and anywhere, making it a handy way to boost flexibility in this important muscle.

Quadricep Stretches

Standing quad stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The quadriceps muscles, also known as the quads, run from the front of the pelvis, over the kneecap, and to the front of the shin. These muscles help straighten your knees. Running, biking, and other daily activities can result in tight quadricep muscles. These three easy stretches for tight quadriceps, including the standing quadricep stretch, can help.

Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Stop the stretch if you feel pain. The stretches can be performed several times each day.

Calf Stretches

Calf stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The calf muscles course down from behind the knee to the back of the heel. Tight calf muscles are common in most people, sometimes due to wearing high- heeled shoes. Tightness here may result in ankle and foot problems, including Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis.

Stretching your calf muscles is easy. The towel calf muscle stretch can be done just about anywhere, and all you need is a towel.

You can also perform the classic runner's stretch for your calf muscles. Simply place both hands on a wall, and leave your heels on the ground as you lean towards the wall. You should feel a slight stretch behind your lower legs.

A Word From Verywell

Working to keep your legs moving freely and fully can help you feel better about yourself, and it may help to prevent injuries. By taking a few minutes each day to perform these basic lower extremity stretches, you can help maximize your pain-free mobility. If you have any injuries, questions, or concerns, visit a physical therapist so you can learn the best way to stretch your legs.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Laura Inverarity, PT, DO
Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.