How To Do The Butterfly Legs Properly

The butterfly legs exercise, aka butterfly stretch, is designed to stretch your inner thighs, hips, lower back, and legs.

It is commonly used by athletes who play court sports, run track, and playfield as a way to stretch the adducting muscles.

Required equipment: Mat (Optional)

How to do it:

  • Sit on the mat or the floor/ground if you don’t have a mat. Position your legs in front of your body.
  • Reach forward with one of your hands and grab your left foot. You can bend your knee to help the foot and hand connect.
  • Gently, pull the left foot toward your groin. To make this motion less challenging, you can bend the foot until you get to a comfortable spot and the sole is facing your right thigh.
  • Bend your right knee to bring the left foot toward your groin, making sure its sole touches the sole of the left foot.
  • Hold both feet with your hands and then rest the elbows on your knees.
  • Keeping your back stationary and straight, let your knees fall down towards the ground.
  • Apply a bit of pressure on your inner thigh by pressing on your knees gently with your elbows. You should feel some tension and pull in the groin.
  • Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
  • Release the leg and repeat as many times as you desire.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE BUTTERFLY LEGS WORK?

This exercise primarily targets your inner thighs and hips, but it also releases tension in your groin and knees.

It also works your back a little bit as you straighten throughout the exercise.

BUTTERFLY LEGS BENEFITS

LOOSENS TIGHT HIPS

Butterfly legs open up tight hips by working your inner thigh muscles.

It can be particularly helpful to people who have developed tight hips because of sitting for long hours.

IMPROVES BALANCE AND STABILITY

This movement requires that you keep your back straight and still as you stretch your thighs, hips and legs.

Keeping your back straight strengthens your back muscles and stabilizes your spine, which improves your balance and stability.

EASY TO DO

The butterfly legs is relatively easy to do. It doesn’t take much to learn and it essentially requires no specialized equipment for its execution.

ALTERNATIVES TO BUTTERFLY LEGS

PIGEON POSE

Like the butterfly legs, the pigeon pose offer a deep stretch to your hips and thighs.

It also releases tension in your glutes and the psoas muscle which connects your lower back and thighs.

Steps:

  • Get a mat (optional)
  • Position your body on all fours.
  • Place your right knee behind your right wrist.
  • Laying your right shin on the floor, slowly move the right foot forward.
  • Lengthen your left leg behind you, and then rest on top of your ankle.
  • If your hips cannot lower and touch the floor naturally, place a pillow or yoga block below them.
  • Extend your spine.
  • Rest both hands on the floor/a yoga block.

SIDE ANGLE POSE

The side angle pose is a popular yoga movement used to stretch and relieve tension in your inner thighs, hips and glutes.

Steps:

  • Place your feet about 3 feet apart.
  • Rotate your right foot outward and the left one to 45 degrees.
  • Bend your right knee to 90 degrees and then bring your arms up to shoulder height.
  • Extend your right arm to the floor and the left arm over your head.
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • Release and then bring the arms back up to shoulder height.
  • Point your feet forward.
  • Repeat the steps on the left side.

CLAMSHELLS

The clamshell is an exercise that strengthens and stretches your hip flexors. It relieves tightness caused by weak hips and inactivity.

It is often prescribed by physiotherapists to relieve back pain.

Instructions:

  • Lie down on the floor on your side.
  • Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle.
  • Use the hand on the floor to hold your head off the ground, and put the other on your hip.
  • Make sure your heels and glutes are in the same line.
  • Stack your hips on top of each other.
  • Press the heels together and then lift the knee on top as high as you can. Don’t let the hips move.
  • Keep your lower leg still on the floor.
  • Switch sides and repeat the above steps.
  • Do 8-10 reps.

BUTTERFLY LEGS MISTAKES TO AVOID

BOUNCING

Bouncing as you do your stretch can pull on your muscle insertion points and tendons instead of lengthening and relaxing the muscle, which is the whole purpose of the stretch.

Instead of bouncing as you do butterfly legs, try using slow, smooth and controlled movements that will improve the flexibility of your adductors rather than tug on your tendons.

HOLDING YOUR BREATH

Tempting as it may be, do not hold your breath while doing butterfly legs.

Breathing through the stretch actually helps you stretch deeper, according to yoga.

PRESSING DOWN FORCEFULLY

Just like bouncing, pressing down on the ground with a lot of force can put unnecessary pressure on your ligaments, tendons and muscles insertion points which could make you prone to muscle overuse or injury.

If your knees are high off the ground, you can place blocks or cushions under the knees or thighs so that your thighs are relaxed and your knees can naturally lower without you having to force them down.

SINKING YOUR SIDE

Make sure you balance your weight evenly between your sitting bones, pelvis and hips.

This will stabilize your body so that you don’t topple forward or backward as you pull the feet.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The butterfly exercise is uncomplicated and requires no equipment to do. What’s more, it is safe and can be adapted to suit different levels of ability.

Make this gem part of your stretching workout or independently – and be patient as you work on your flexibility.

Be cautious when doing this movement if you have a history of pain, injury, or discomfort in your knees or groin or better still, consult your doctor before you even get started.