Fitness Tips

Tight Thighs? Here’s the Unexpected Spot To Stretch for Instant Relief

Kara Jillian Brown

Stocksy/Leah Flores
If you're wondering how to stretch your outer thighs, the answer isn't exactly intuitive. But that doesn't mean it's a total mystery. Sore outer thighs are likely caused by a tight IT band, explains Austin Martinez, MS, CSCS, director of education for StretchLab. And stretching your glutes can help relieve that tension.

"The IT band is a fibrous band of connective tissue, or fascia, that is located on the [outside] of the hip, thigh, and knee," says Martinez. "The glutes surround the IT band, additionally they are the primary supporter of the hip, whereas the IT band is a secondary. If the glutes are weak, fatigued, or tight this may cause additional stress or strain on the [outer thigh muscles] and IT band to 'pick up the slack' with everyday movements and activities."

A tight IT band can cause more than a bit of discomfort.

"Dysfunction at the IT band can cause abnormal or inefficient movement patterns, potentially placing more stress on the lower body," says Martinez. "It can also lead to IT band friction syndrome, which is when inflammation at the attachment site of the knee occurs. This is common in endurance athletes like runners."

Outer thigh stretches are tricky. "Due to its location on the body, it can be a challenging area to stretch by yourself," says Martinez. "Generally it requires stretching tools or placing your body in specific positions which may be challenging if you are just beginning your flexibility journey." The IT band itself can't be stretched, because it's tissue, not muscle. So when working to relieve IT band tension, Martinez says to focus on surrounding muscles like the glutes and the tensor fascia latae, a muscle that connects to the gluteus maximus and runs alongside the IT band. Try these three stretches to relieve tight outer thighs.

The best moves to stretch outer thighs

1. Pigeon Pose

Martinez says this stretch will help loosen up your gluteus muscles and your piriformis, a small muscle tucked behind your glues. From all fours, bring your right knee forward towards your right wrist. "Depending on your body it may be just behind your wrist or to the outer or the inner edge of it," he says. Slide your left leg back and point your toes. "As you inhale, draw your navel towards the ground to deepen the stretch," he says.  Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat one to two times on each side.

Watch how to do pigeon, according to a yoga instructor:

2. Figure 4

Similar to pigeon pose, figure four stretches the glutes, but can be easier to get into if you're not super flexible. It can be done either standing or laying down. If standing, lift your right leg, bend into your left knee, and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Brace your core or hold onto a wall for stability. The further your knee pushes to the ground, the deeper you'll feel the stretch. If laying down, bend your knees and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. To deepen the stretch, bring your hands under your left thigh and gradually pull your legs in toward your chest. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat one to two times on each side.

3. Standing TFL stretch

This stretch focuses on the tensor fascia latae. From a standing position, cross your right ankle behind your left ankle. Bending through your left knee, push your right hip out to the right, holding on to a chair or bench if needed. Martinez says you'll feel this stretch on the right outer thigh. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat one to two times on each side.

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