To flutter your legs or not — that's the question I've always had when it comes to my favorite stretch, the butterfly. Most of my fitness teachers love the move, too — but about 50 percent of them have suggested the dynamic approach, and the other half preferred the static route.
The good news is there is no right or wrong way to do the butterfly stretch. According to Sara Mikulsky, DPT, the founder of Sara Mikulsky Wellness Physical Therapy, there are different benefits to both static and dynamic adaptations.
The butterfly stretch is popular for reducing tightness in the inner thigh due to muscle overuse or compensation for the hip flexor — which is why it's a great groin stretch! You also target the hip joint, which can help improve mobility, Mikulsky said. "The butterfly should be incorporated into any exercise program that utilizes the leg muscles — additionally when running or doing other cardio exercises."
During warmups, Mikulsky noted, the dynamic butterfly stretch is often the way to go. Fluttering your legs stimulates blood flow and increases the range of motion to prepare joints and muscles for movement.
If increasing flexibility is your goal, try taking a prolonged static approach to the stretch during your cooldown instead. Mikulsky said holding the stretch for at least 30 seconds will allow the muscle tension to relax (the brain actually sends a signal to the muscle that causes the tension to dissipate!) and stretch further.
Either way you butterfly it, keep any preexisting knee and hip joint injuries in mind. Never overpressure these areas by pressing down on your knees to increase the stretch — instead, let the joint fall into its natural range of motion, Mikulsky said.
And remember, before following Mikulsky's instructions for performing the butterfly properly, it's best to check in with a doctor if you're unsure if the stretch is right for you.
- While sitting on the floor, bend your knees so your knees and ankles are together with your feet flat on the floor.
- Let both knees fall outward to opposite sides while the bottom of your feet remain together.
- A stretch will be felt in the inner part of your thigh area.
- For optimal stretch results, hold for one minute in a static position or flutter your legs with small pulses.