If You’re Not Already Stretching Your Inner Thighs, Here’s Why It’s Important—and How to Do It

Photo: Getty Images/Violeta Stoimenova
Stretching—especially as you get older—is crucial. When you don't do so regularly, your muscles shorten and tighten, which doesn't just affect your mobility, but it also can put you at risk for joint pain, injuries, and muscle damage—any of which can quickly stop you from being your healthiest, happiest self.

While the back, shoulders, and neck get a lot of attention in stretching routines (hello, must-needed relief from staring at a computer screen all day long!), the same can't be said for the inner thighs. Seriously, when were you taught how to stretch your inner thighs? Probably a long time ago (like in grade school), if at all. While it's not typically an area you would think to target regularly, physical therapist Dan Giordano, PT, DPT, CSCS, co-founder of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy, says that foregoing inner thigh muscle exercises can be a big mistake. With that in mind, keep reading to uncover why you'll want to make room for regular adductor stretching in your routine.

But first: Why should you stretch your inner thighs?

Let’s be honest, the inner thighs aren’t the first muscle to come to mind when you think of strength or stretching. In fact, they’re more of a hush-hush muscle group that often gets overlooked. However, according to BowFlex Fitness Advisor and CPT, Amy Schemper, there are more than a few reasons why you’ll want to work an inner thigh stretching routine into your regular regimen.

“Your inner thighs (or hip adductors) are used often during your daily movement when you walk, sit, rotate, or bend, so it’s important to both strengthen and stretch them, just like any other muscles,” she explains. “Stretching your inner thighs will not only improve mobility and increase flexibility in your hips, core, and lower body, but it can also ease muscle tightness and tension, aid in recovery from exercise, and promote blood flow.” More on that, in a bit.

Wait, which muscles are worked during inner thigh stretches?

The inner thighs aren't a single standalone muscle. In reality, five different muscles are at play. “Your inner thigh muscles include your adductors, or muscles that assist in moving the leg toward the midline of the bottom,” Schemper says, noting that they’re made up of five different muscles (the pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, and gracilis) that start at the pelvis and go down through the femur bone. “When you are stretching your inner thighs, you’re stretching your entire groin area, including your lower back and hips.”

The benefits of stretching your inner thigh area

The simple act of stretching your inner thighs can benefit numerous other areas of your body. "It's important to improve the mobility of your inner thighs—the ability of the joint to actively move through a range of motion—because lack of mobility in the inner thighs may result in poor pelvic positioning, pain at the inner knee, or pain in your lower back," Giordano says.

Because Giordano says the adductors work synergistically with your abductors in order to provide pelvic stability, stretching them regularly can also help with stability. "It's important that you follow stretching exercises with strengthening exercises because strengthening the adductors will lead to long-term changes and will help with stability," he says. When your stability is in check, you're better able to prevent injury. Think about it: If you trip, for instance, your body is better able to stabilize itself and prevent you from tumbling over. Who knows—you could save yourself from a sprained ankle, or worse.

Aside from improving your mobility and keeping pain from popping up elsewhere, as well as keeping your body stable, the American Council on Exercise says stretching in general also helps promote circulation to your muscles and joints, reduces any tension in the area, and helps with muscle stiffness. All in all, you can't really go wrong adding some inner thigh stretches—and even some counter-balancing outer thigh stretches—into your daily stretching routine, especially when they only take a few minutes to do.

Dynamic stretches vs. static stretches—and when to do each

Where dynamic stretches are in motion, static stretches occur at rest. “Dynamic stretches will be better suited to start out and warm up the hips and adductors with less of a risk of holding for too long or overdoing it since movement is integrated into these stretches,” says SLT trainer Claudia Germuga. “Static stretching (which includes holding a position) will be most supportive after you’ve completed a movement practice when the body is already warm, more open, and feeling more pliable.”

When it comes to your inner thighs, Giordano advises to dynamically stretch the area—aka "moving through the range of motion with end range pauses"—prior to activity in order to reap the most benefits.

"It improves circulation, preps your muscles for movement, and temporarily increases your range of motion," he says. "Never statically stretch—holding the stretch for prolonged periods such as 30 seconds—prior to activity, as research shows static stretching prior to activity will decrease your force output, decreasing your performance."

If you enjoy the feeling of stretching your muscles post-exercise, Giordano says to perform your inner thigh stretches with slightly longer holds and to never stretch into painful ranges. You want the stretching you do to be beneficial—not wind up hurting you or making existing problems any worse.

Why it's important to stretch slowly

It's not just stretching your inner thighs that's important—it's how you're stretching them. According to Giordano, you'll want to make sure you're performing each stretch slowly to ensure the process is pain-free, comfortable, and as beneficial as possible.

"It's important to slowly move into the stretch in order for your neurological system to adapt into the range of motion," he says. "Stretching allows our body to tolerate deeper levels of neural discomfort. Slowly move in the stretch, pause, and repeat, each time getting a little deeper and improving your range of motion, which will lead to an improvement in mobility."

What precautions should you take when stretching your inner thighs? 

Before giving you a cheat sheet on the best inner thigh muscle exercises, let’s talk precautions. While it’s never fun to pull a muscle, over-stretching an inert high muscle can feel particularly debilitating. With that in mind, there are some key pointers to keep in mind when navigating groin stretches (because, newsflash, the adductors fall within the groin area). 

“For both dynamic and static stretches, keep the core engaged and movement controlled to avoid bouncing or overstretching,” Schemper says. “A strong core and stable pelvis will allow for a deeper stretch, and ensure you’re engaging the correct muscles.” Additionally, she says to let your breath guide you while sinking into each stretch. “Use your breath to get into a deeper stretch by exhaling and sinking slightly deeper,” she explains. “Also, make sure you aren’t holding your breath during the static stretches.” 

Overall, Germuga says to listen to your body. “Never force yourself to hold a stretch or go to a depth that’s painful,” she emphasizes. “Proceed slowly, as well, to allow adequate time for the body to offer feedback. The inner thighs or adductors feed into and attach to the pelvis which tends to be a more sensitive area, so it’s important to go gently and breathe, as to not overdo it.”

What are the best stretches for inner thighs?

While there are many different stretches, Giordano has a few he prefers above all others. These options will allow you to stretch your inner thighs safely and provide all the benefits of doing so. Here are his step-by-step instructions on how to do each of the inner thigh stretches properly.

1. Frogger stretch

  1. Start with your knees and forearms on the floor with your knees and feet as wide as possible. Try to keep the inner part of your feet on the floor.
  2. Sit your butt back to your heels, feeling the stretch on your inner thighs.
  3. Pause for three seconds, then rock out of the stretch and back in.
  4. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

2. Kneeling adductor stretch

  1. Start with your knees and hands on the floor.
  2. Straighten out one leg to the side. Try to keep your leg on the floor.
  3. Rock your butt back to the heel of your bent knee, feeling the stretch on the inner thigh of your straight leg.
  4. Pause for three seconds, then rock out of the stretch and back in.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

3. Half-kneeling adductor dips

  1. Start in a half-kneeling position with one knee on the ground and the other leg bent with your foot on the ground. Move your bent leg out to the side as much as you can. Your foot should be perpendicular to your knee.
  2. With your hands on your hips, dip your body toward your bent leg, feeling the stretch on the inner thigh—especially the side where your knee is on the ground.
  3. Repeat 10 to 15 times.


How often should I stretch my inner thighs?

Since your inner thighs play a vital role in mobility and stability, stretching them daily can be hugely beneficial. No need to go wild with it, though. Even just five minutes of stretching morning and night can keep your muscles feeling warm and limber.

Can inner thigh stretches improve overall flexibility?

It sure can. As Schemper revealed above, inner thigh stretches can increase flexibility in your hips, core, and lower body.

How long should I hold an inner thigh stretch?

If it's a dynamic stretch, you shouldn't hold it. If it's a static inner thigh stretch, holding the position for even just 30 seconds can lend to muscular strengthening and relief.

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