Easy Physical Therapy Thigh Muscle Stretches

The thigh describes the area of your leg above the knee joint and below the hip. Four large muscle groups make up the thigh region:

  • The Quadriceps - Straighten the knee and bend the hip up
  • The Hamstrings - Bend the knee and extend the hip backward
  • The Adductors - Bring the legs together
  • The Abductors (like your gluteal muscles) - Move the legs apart

These muscles help support your knee and hip joints and help move your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). Sometimes, these muscles become tight after injury or a period of inactivity and immobilization.


Watch Now: 3 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Thighs

The muscles of your thigh may become tight due to the extended amount of time we spend in the seated position during the workday. For this reason, it is important to stretch the thigh muscles frequently. A few sessions with your physical therapist can help you determine which exercises are best for stretching your thighs.

Let's review 3 easy stretches that target the quadriceps, hamstring, and adductor muscle groups. Your local physical therapist may have you perform these stretches a few times a day as part of your home exercise program.​

Before starting this, or any other, exercise program you need to check in with your doctor to be sure that exercising is safe for you to do.


Quadriceps Stretch

Quad stretch

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Melissa Castro Schmidt

The quadriceps course down the front of your thigh from your hip to your knee. Tightness here may be one cause of knee pain or patella malalignment. Here's how you stretch your quads:

  1. Stand upright
  2. Step forward with your right leg
  3. Slowly bend your right knee keeping your left leg straight
  4. Continue to bend your right knee until a gentle stretch is felt on top of the thigh
  5. Hold for 5 seconds
  6. Return to the start position
  7. Repeat steps 1 to 6 five more times
  8. Perform with left leg forward

Remember to stop the stretch if it causes increased pain.


Standing Hamstring Stretch

woman doing standing hamstring stretch

Photo: Ben Goldstein

Your hamstrings run down the back of your thigh from you hip to the back of your knee. Here is how to stretch them:

  1. Stand upright
  2. Bend over and attempt to touch your toes while keeping your knees straight
  3. Continue until a gentle stretch is felt behind the knees
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds
  5. Return to the start position
  6. Repeat steps 1 to 5 five more times

Stop this stretch if you feel any low back pain or increasd pain in your hamstrings.


Adductor Stretch

Adductor Stretch

Photo: Ben Goldstein / Model: Melissa Castro Schmidt

Your adductor muscles run from the inner side of your hip to the inner side of your knee. They help to pull your thighs together. Here is how you stretch them.

  1. Stand upright
  2. Spread your legs shoulder distance apart
  3. Slowly lean to your right while bending your right knee
  4. Keep your left leg straight
  5. Continue until a gentle stretch is felt in your inner left thigh
  6. Hold for 5 seconds
  7. Return to the start position
  8. Repeat steps 1 to 6 five more times
  9. Perform this again, leaning to the left

When stretching, a comfortable pull should be felt. Stop if you feel any pain. By stretching your muscles a bit each day, you can have a positive effect on your overall mobility.

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