A solid stretching routine before leg day reduces injury and maximizes your effort in the gym. Here are the best pre-workout leg stretches.
Getting ready to hit Leg Day like the resistance training BOSS you are?
Good for you! Just don’t forget to warm up.
Leg Day is the day when you really feel the muscle soreness if you don’t warm up properly.
Those thick, powerful quads, hamstrings, and glutes can stiffen up and make walking around quite painful for a day or two after an intense lower body training session.
We’ve all had those mornings where we wake up the day after a big session in the squat rack and felt like we’d gotten hit by a choo-choo train.
Stretching before your workout is crucial for keeping your muscles limber and preventing injuries.
But did you know that stretching can actually enhance your muscular performance?
That’s right: dynamic stretches for leg day will boost power generation in your lower body muscles and help you push harder, for longer.
Below, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about dynamic leg stretches—why they’re more effective than static stretches, what their benefits are, and how to incorporate them into your training session.
Plus, I’ll give you some of my favorite pre-workout leg stretches to get your muscles fired up and ready for a hardcore session!
Got a big upper body lifting session planned? I’ve also got an article with the best upper body dynamic stretches to get your arms, shoulders, and back.
Let’s jump right in.
Benefits of Getting Loose Before Leg Day
Before I share with you my favorite dynamic stretches for leg day, I want to take a closer look at what dynamic stretches are and why you should favor them over static stretches.
As you know, static stretches are stretching positions that you hold for an extended period of time.
Typically, I stretch for 15 to 45 seconds per position, moving slowly and paying close attention to make sure I get the full joint extension.
Static stretches are definitely good for boosting flexibility and mobility. Because they are slow-paced and focus on posture, you can increase your joints’ range of motion. It’s how you work up to doing the splits, increase your ankle flexibility, bend farther to the side, etc.
Dynamic stretches, however, are active, controlled movements that push your joints through their full range of motion.
Instead of holding the maximum extension, you work through the entire range of motion (arm swing, leg lift, torso twist, etc.) to engage the muscles as well as the joints.
This can have some pretty amazing benefits, including:
- Greater power and agility . Because you’re pushing your joints through the entire range of motion, your body is better-able to generate force through that range, as well as move through it more quickly and efficiently.
- Better jumping power . Studies have proven that dynamic stretches help you to jump higher because they prepare your muscles to generate explosive power more effectively than static stretches.
- Muscular reaction time improves . Your muscles actually respond fractionally faster to brain signals thanks to dynamic stretches. The stretches get your muscles ready to move, so they’re primed and waiting for those electrical impulses from the brain that signal it’s time to jump, push, or pull.
- Lower injury risk . Dynamic stretches are more effective than static stretches at preparing your muscles and joints to move through a certain range of motion, not only warming up the tissue, but also loosening stiffness and encouraging greater tissue elasticity. As a result, you’re less likely to injure yourself during your training because your body is able to move fluidly through the full range of motion.
All pretty amazing reasons to incorporate dynamic stretching into your workout sessions, aren’t they?
My Favorite Pre-Workout Leg Stretches for Dominating Leg Day
Before you shred those legs, take a few moments to go through these dynamic leg stretches for an effective warm-up!
Stretch 1: High Knees
This is a truly amazing warm-up to get your lower body muscles firing and ready to train. Whether you’re running, playing sports, doing HIIT, or lifting weights, this dynamic stretch will get you ready to WORK.
To perform it:
- Jump in place, bringing one knee up to your hips.
- Switch feet, bringing the other knee up to hip level and swinging your arms.
- Alternate quickly from side to side—now you’re running in place!
- Repeat for 30 seconds to get those muscles firing and your lungs working.
Stretch 2: Leg Swings
You definitely want to make sure your hamstrings and hips are limbered up if you’re going to be doing lower body exercises like box jumps, skater lunges, sumo squats, or wide-foot leg presses.
This is an easy but highly effective dynamic stretch to get those hip joints nice and loose!
To perform it:
- Stand with your right hand gently holding onto a wall or bench for support. (Trainer’s Tip: Doing this stretch without holding onto anything for support will increase core muscle activation and improve your balance.)
- Swing your left leg up in front of you, keeping it straight. Raise it to roughly hip level, then let it swing backward.
- On the back-swing, bring your leg back and up to roughly the level of your lower glutes.
- Repeat 10-15 times with the left leg, then switch to the right side for another 10-15 reps.
Stretch 3: Frog Walk-In
Anyone who’s got stiff hips will love this one! It’s a game-changing dynamic stretch that will help to limber up your hip joints and give you greater lower body flexibility.
Plus, it engages your upper body and core muscles at the same time!
To perform it:
- Start in the plank position, with your hands planted on the floor beneath your shoulders, your legs at full extension, and feet together.
- Without swinging, bring your right knee up and plant your right foot directly outside your right hand. You’ll feel the pull in your hips, abs, and obliques. Focus on keeping the movement smooth; avoid jerking or swinging as much as possible.
- After a 2-second hold, return your right foot to its original plank position, then bring your left foot up to directly beside your left hand.
- Repeat 10 times per side for a next-level hip stretch!
Stretch 4: Lunge with a Twist
This is one of my absolute favorite dynamic leg stretches to warm up for a routine involving a lot of lunges (and their many variations!).
It even works for a squat or leg press-heavy day, because it limbers up the hip muscles, core, leg muscles, knees, and ankles.
To perform it:
- Stand with your feet planted together, hands by your side, and posture straight.
- Step forward into a lunge—right foot leading the way, right knee bending to just above a 90-degree angle, stopping just before your left knee touches the ground.
- While in the lunge position, reach your left arm overhead and bend your torso to the right. (Trainer’s Note: This is an excellent dynamic stretch to improve your balance!)
- Lower your arm, straighten your torso, and push back up to standing position.
- Lunge forward with the left foot, and bend to your left. Alternate for 10 reps per side.
Stretch 5: Bodyweight Squats
Squats are an amazing exercise that will build serious power in your leg muscles and increase the range of motion in your hips, knees, ankles, and lower back.
If you’re going to do a squat-heavy workout, use bodyweight squats (no added weight!) as a dynamic warm-up to get your lower body ready for work.
To perform it:
- Stand with your knees slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly outward.
- Lower slowly into the squat, stopping just before your knees crack a 90-degree angle.
- Push back up to your original standing position.
- Repeat 10-15 times.
Leg Day Stretches – FAQs
Should you stretch before or after leg day?
You want to stretch before leg day to ensure your joints are limber and your muscles warm and ready to work.
Stretching after you’re done working out will help to flush out lactic acid, replenish lost nutrients, increase protein uptake, and prevent muscles soreness and joint stiffness.
How long should I stretch after a big leg workout?
Spend at least 10 to 15 minutes cooling down after your big leg workout. That could include light cardio exercise like walking or cycling, keeping your pace very slow to allow for “active” recovery.
You can also use that time for some dynamic stretches (like those we listed above), as well as static stretches that can increase your lower body range of motion.
The Bottom Line
Leg Day is the best day of the week—a chance to train your muscles for all of your favorite sports and activities: snowboarding, skiing, cycling, running, playing soccer, sprinting, and the list goes on.
In order to safely train your muscles, however, it’s absolutely vital that you incorporate stretching into both your warm-up and cool-down. This is key to not only reducing your injury risk, but also improving muscular performance and helping you recover faster post-workout.
Dynamic stretches are the most effective solution for preparing your body to work, loosening up the soft tissue of your muscles and joints.
Incorporate the dynamic lower body stretches above into your leg day routine, and I guarantee you’ll see better results and experience less stiffness and soreness afterward!
Stretching Programs for Increased Flexibility
Are you looking for a complete program and routine for increasing flexibility?
Here are a couple of excellent programs that I recommend.
Hyperbolic Stretching – An Athlete’s Full Review. This stretching program covers the basics and includes a digital library of stretches and routines you can use to improve lower-body flexibility, master the splits, increase upper body range of motion, and more.
The Best Stretching Programs and Apps for Improving Flexibility. Looking for a stretching program or app to help you kick up your flexibility? Here’s a detailed look at the top stretching apps for every level of user.