Tight thigh muscles make activity painful and can prevent you from doing the exercises you enjoy. Chronic tightness can make you feel like you are shuffling along on a walk or run instead of opening up your stride. In addition to causing soreness, overly contracted thigh muscles pull your pelvis out of alignment, leading to back problems and other issues. Proper stretching eases your tightness and allows you to have a more complete range of hip and leg motion. Recruitment exercises will also help you use your legs to their full capacity, so you can keep up with your workout buddies.
Whether you experience stiffness caused by prolonged sitting or by being a weekend warrior, stretching before and after exercising will reduce tension. The standing quadricep stretch alleviates tightness in your thighs. To do this stretch, stand up straight with your pelvis in a neutral position, and bend your left knee. Reach one hand behind you, so that you can grab your foot, bringing your heel toward your buttocks. Make sure that your thighs are parallel. Press your foot into your hand for six seconds, contracting the muscles in the back of your legs, and then relax, holding the pose an additional 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch for the opposite leg.
Kneeling Psoas Stretch
The psoas is a large, thick muscle that is responsible for hip flexion and rotation. Also known as the hip flexor muscle, the psoas can affect your lower back and posture. If you sit for long periods, your psoas gets used to being in a shortened position, and this will lead to stiffness in the muscle. To stretch your psoas, do the kneeling psoas stretch. Kneel in a lunge position, knee directly above the ankle, with one leg behind you and your hands resting on your thigh in front of you. Lean forward keeping your back straight and, while pushing your back leg and your front foot into the ground, squeeze your legs toward each other using the hamstring of your front leg and the quads of your back leg. Hold the pose for six seconds, relax and repeat three times before switching legs.
Static or passive stretching is fine, but adding movement to your stretching routine will facilitate muscle recruitment and wake up your muscles. Butt kicks are good leg exercises for stretching and strengthening your legs. When executing butt kicks, focus on stretching the front of your thighs by engaging your hamstring muscle.To do them, walk or jog forward and flick your heel up toward your buttocks every second step, alternating sides as you go. Make sure you keep your pelvis is in a neutral position throughout the exercise. Flick each leg behind you 10 times.
Yoga is a beneficial practice that increases flexibility while decreasing stress. With yoga, the focus is on balance, so it's less likely that you will neglect any muscles. However, there are certain poses that specifically address upper-thigh tightness, such as Camel pose. Use a soft pad or yoga mat to protect your knees as you kneel with your knees hips width apart and even with each other. Holding your pelvis in neutral, lean back. Imagine you are doing a back bend, but place your hands on your heels. Squeeze your glutes, pulling your sitting bones up without arching your lower back excessively. Gently push your hips forward just until you feel the stretch in your quads. Hold the pose at least 30 seconds.
Lize Brittin lives in Boulder, Colo. A writer since 2001, she is the author of the book "Training on Empty." Brittin has also written for publications such as Competitor, Active Cities, Boulder Magazine and Thrill. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University Of Colorado.