The gracilis is a long, thin muscle that stretches from your pubic symphysis in the groin and inserts in the medial tendon that attaches to your tibia. It works with other leg muscles to flex the hip and knee joints and to move your leg toward and away from the midline of your body. Since the gracilis cannot function or move by itself, you should incorporate other muscle groups to stretch it to improve joint and muscle mobility, suggests the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Seated Split Stretch
This exercise stretches your gracilis and the adductor muscles of your inner thighs while keeping your torso upright. Sit on the ground with your legs spread out to your sides as much as you can. Flex your feet up toward your body, and put your hands on the ground near your buttocks. Push your arms down against the ground, but do not shrug your shoulders to keep your torso upright. Hold the stretch for three deep breaths. With each exhale, slide your hips forward to increase the stretch.
Side Lunge and Stretch
This exercise stretches your inner thighs while stabilizing your ankle, knee and hip joints together as you lunge. Stand with your legs wider than your shoulders with your feet pointing forward. Tighten your buttocks to stabilize your body. Then slowly lunge to your left, bending your leg and hip joints together while keeping your right leg straight. Lunge as low as you can without rounding your spine and without pushing the left knee over your left toes. Put your arms in front of you for balance. You should feel a stretch in your right inner thigh. Hold this stretch for two deep breaths, straighten and then lunge to your right.
Supine Single Leg Abduction Stretch
This exercise stretches your inner thigh one at a time while keeping your torso stable as you move your leg. Lie on the ground on your back with your arms out to your sides. Raise your right leg straight up until it is perpendicular to the ground while keeping your left leg flat on the ground. Flex your right foot toward your face, and lower the right leg out to your right side until you feel a gentle stretch; you may need to support the leg with your right hand to stay stable and not overdo it. Do not move the left leg during the exercise. Hold the stretch for two to three deep breaths, and raise your leg back up. Lower it to the starting position, and repeat on the opposite side.
This self-massage technique releases tissue adhesions that causes tenderness and stiffness in your muscles and joints. To roll on your gracilis and inner thighs, use a firm foam exercise roll. Put the roll on the ground, put your inner thigh near your groin on top of the roll. Lie on your abs and hips, and prop your body up with your forearms. Gently roll from your groin to your inner knee. When you find a tender spot, apply more pressure and massage the area back and forth until the pain goes away. Physical therapist Chris Frederick, recommends that you perform a stretching exercise immediately after self-myofascial release to promote further relaxation of the muscles.
- "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training"; Michael Clark; 2007
- "Stretch to Win"; Ann and Chris Frederick; 2006
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.