Knee Flexibility Exercises

Welcome to the knee flexibility exercise library! This page will cover flexibility and foam rolling for the quadriceps and hamstrings.

To learn more about these muscle groups and how they work together during movement, read Anatomy for Exercise: Lower Body Muscles.

For additional tips of stretching and injury prevention, check out What’s Really Going On When You Stretch?

Disclaimer: Always seek proper instruction before initiating an exercise program. Not everything is great for everyone! Consult with your qualified health care practitioners for an exercise program tailored to your needs. Stay healthy and injury-free! Read the full disclaimer.

Quad stretch in standing

The quadriceps are a group of four muscles that extend the knee. One of the four, the rectus femoris, crosses the hip joint and attaches to the pelvis. 

A standing quad stretch is suitable for those who have good balance and full knee range of motion. 

woman doing a standing quad stretch - knee flexibility exercises
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform:

  • Get your balance either on one foot or holding on to something stable.
  • Bend one knee and grab the foot or back of your shoe and gently pull toward the glutes.
  • Don’t allow the knee to drift away from the body; try to keep it in line with the standing leg for best alignment. 
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Prone quad stretch (with strap)

A quad stretch in prone is a great way to modify the stretch. It can be performed with or without a strap to further accommodate for knee range of motion. 

This position allows you to relax more and focus on stretch.

woman performing a prone quad stretch using a strap for modification - knee flexibility exercises.
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform: 

  • Place a strap around the foot if using one, lie face down and draw the heel toward the glutes. 
  • Keep the knees in line for best alignment.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Side-lying quad stretch

A quad stretch in side-lying is another alternative to modify the stretch. In this position, the top leg will be the one to stretch. A strap can be used to accommodate knee range of motion further. 

woman performing a side-lying quad stretch - knee flexibility exercises
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform:

  • Lie on your side
  • Bend the top knee and catch a hold of your foot, shoe, or strap, and gently draw the foot into your glutes. 
  • Keep the knees in line for best alignment.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Foam rolling for quads

To foam roll the quads, we’re targeting the area between the hip and the top of the knee. 

how to foam roll the quads - knee flexibility exercises
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform:

  • Lying on your stomach, place the foam roller under your thighs, and support yourself on your elbows, as is you were in a plank. 
  • Gently roll back and forth along the length of the quad muscles.
  • Perform for up to 3 minutes. 
  • Follow up with stretching to maximal results. 

Hamstring stretch with strap

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh and connect the pelvis (sits bones) with the lower leg to flex the knee. 

A strap makes hamstring stretching accessible no matter what your level of flexibility.

supine hamstring stretch with strap
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform:

  • Lying on your back, place the strap around the middle of your foot
  • Hold the strap and gently lift and straighten your leg until you feel a gentle pulling along the back of the leg. 
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Forward fold 

Forward fold is a great pose to release the low back and hamstrings by using gravity to give you a hand.

forward fold yoga pose hamstring and low back flexibility
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform:

  • Bend the knees slightly and bring your hands down toward the mat
  • Allow your arms and head to hang heavy and allow gravity to distract the low back and pelvis gently. 
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • To get out of this pose, slowly roll up one vertebra at a time, or place your hands down and come down to the mat.

Pyramid Pose

Pyramid pose is another intense hamstring opening pose. Blocks can be used to accommodate different levels of flexibility and make the stretch more comfortable—caution with hamstring injuries or lower back issues. 

There are several variations of this pose; this is just one example. 

pyramid pose hamstring flexibility exercise
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform: 

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and step back approximately 3 feet with one leg. (The front leg will get the deeper stretch.)
  • Keep the toes on the front foot pointing forward, angle the toes on the back foot toward the corner of the mat (on the same side). 
  • Square your hips to the front of the mat by pulling the front hip back and slowly lean forward, leading with the sternum. 
  • Place the hands down, either on blocks or the mat, wherever you can comfortably reach. 
  • Bend into the front knee and press up through the heel to safety exit this pose.

Seated hamstring stretch

A seated hamstring stretch is another easy way to take more out of the equation and focus only on stretching the hamstrings. 

seated hamstring stretch with a strap
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform:

  • Extend one leg out straight and bend the other leg to place the foot’s sole against the inner thigh.
  • Sit up tall and hinge forward and the hip, drawing the sternum toward the leg. 
  • A strap may be used, or you can also bend slightly at the knee.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat 2-3 times. 

Foam Rolling for Hamstrings

foam rolling the hamstrings
Copyright Maura Blackstone

How to perform

  • Place the foam roller under the hamstrings (back of the thighs).
  • Place your hands next to your hips and gently support your weight through your hands.
  • Lift your bottom and slowly roll over the length of the hamstrings (from just above the knees to the sit bones)
  • Perform for 30 seconds to 2 min

More Flexibility Resources

Spine Flexibility Exercises

Hip Flexibility Exercises

.