Can’t lift a stiff leg? This is a pretty common problem that has a few different root causes. Knowing the root cause is the best way to identify the best exercises.

What can make it difficult to lift a stiff leg? 


Weakness in the muscles that flex the hip (bring the leg forward) and/or the muscles that bend the knee. Both of these muscle groups are critical in lifting the leg to clear the ground when swinging the leg through. 


There are to main muscle groups that can develop spasticity that can make the leg stiffen up during the standing phase that will make it difficult to bend the knee to lift the foot to swing the leg through. The two muscle groups are the quadriceps, the muscles that straighten the knee. The second muscle group are the ankle plantarflexors, the muscle that point the foot down. In many cases there is spasticity in both muscle groups. 

Abnormal Synergy Pattern

An extensor synergy pattern in the leg can also make it difficult to lift the leg. 

What exercises can help to lift a stiff leg? 

Movement Retraining

  • Isolated hip flexion exercises can help to “break up” an abnormal synergy pattern. Active assisted exercises using the core max (see the video below to learn how I use this tool to retrain the hip flexors. 
  • Isolated knee flexion is also a critical movement to help make it easier to lift a stiff leg. 


Want to take a deeper dive into this issue? 👇