Feeling Tight? Give These Stretches A Try!
Whether you are working through a high-intensity set of exercises or performing a light yoga routine, you probably feel sore, stiff, or cramped at times. Many people spend most of their day sitting or slouching over their computers or driving from point A to B, which can have dire consequences on your back, neck, shoulders, and hips. Even those of us that workout regularly, these exercises can also lead to tightness and aches in our muscles.
So what is one to do? Stretch!
Stretching helps lengthen and strengthen your muscles. It helps increase blood flow to the muscles and decreases the risk of injury. A good stretching routine will also improve your posture over time.
The following article presents some quick and easy stretches you can do whenever you are feeling tight or sore.
See the stretches below and be sure to pass this along to anyone you know who could use a good stretch!
BY AMY SCHLINGER
The neck is a central portal and superhighway for our entire nervous system, explains David Reavy, PT, owner of React Physical Therapy in Chicago, IL. “Lack of moving during sleep is a big reason the neck becomes tight,” he says. “To add insult to injury, those who have a desk job and who are sitting for most of the day are constantly pulled forward, so the neck and back are slouched for hours at a time.”
Try: Upper Trap Stretch
Sit with a straight back and place right hand on right shoulder. Place left hand on right side of head and tilt head to the left, using just bodyweight (not pulling). Hold for 10 seconds then switch sides.
Alternate: Chin Tucks
Sit up straight with back in neutral and tuck chin into chest, like you are trying to give yourself a double chin. Hold for three seconds. Repeat 10 times. For extra pressure, place two fingers on chin when you tuck.
A main reason triceps tend to feel tight is because of muscle imbalance, says Ben Wegman, trainer at The Fhitting Room in New York City. They’re generally weaker than the biceps, the muscle opposite them. Since triceps are worked less often in day-to-day activity, they’ll feel tighter when isolated and activated in exercise, he explains.
Try: Overhead Triceps Stretch
Reach right arm over your head, bend at the elbow, and place left hand on the front of the right elbow. Gently pull right elbow back and down until you feel tension. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
Alternate: Cross Body Triceps Stretch
Reach your right arm across body at about shoulder level. Place your left wrist on outside of the right elbow and pull your right arm gently toward body. Stop when you feel a stretch in the right triceps and hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
If you’re hoping to lift heavier weights at the gym, it’s necessary that you build grip strength. Working on grip strength helps strengthen your forearms, which allows you to build more muscle overall, but it also affects the wrists, potentially causing tightness, Wegman explains.
Try: One-Arm Assisted Wrist Stretch
Reach right hand out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Flex wrists back, fingers pointing towards ceiling, palms facing forward. Spread fingers wide and gently pull back on thumb with left hand. Hold for a few seconds. Move on to pointer finger, then middle finger, and so on, holding each finger for a few seconds. Release and repeat with the opposite hand.
Alternate: Prayer Stretch
Start with palms together in front of chest just below chin. Slowly lower your hands toward your waistline, keeping hands close to your stomach and palms together, until you feel a mild stretch in your wrists and forearms. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
“Our abs and obliques are our endurance muscles for every activity we do,” McGee explains. “We use our core for everything from lifting and squatting to picking things up to classes like yoga and Pilates, where we use our own bodyweight to support ourselves.”
Try: Upward Dog
Lie facedown, bend elbows, and place palms on floor next to chest. Pointing toes, press tops of feet into floor and press chest up as you straighten your arms and lift thighs and knees off floor. Keep chest open and look up.
Alternate: Bridge Stretch
Lie faceup, knees bent with feet flat on floor, hip-distance apart. With glutes engaged, push through heels and lift hips into air, resting on shoulders. Interlace hands underneath hips and puff your chest to your chin to stretch open entire abdominal region and sides of waist. Hold for 30 seconds.
5. Hip Flexors
These muscles help your legs move, so you use them more than you could imagine. Whether you’re walking, running, or cycling, your hip flexors are involved. And when you’re at a desk all day, you’re making them even tighter. “When we sit, the hip flexors are dormant and shortened, so they tend to get tight, cramp, and pull on our lower backs,” explains McGee.
Try: Crescent Lunge Stretch
Start on all fours. Step right foot forward between hands and lengthen the left leg back, placing left shin and top of left foot on the floor. Let hips fall towards the floor as you lunge into front knee and bend back, opening up through the chest with arms extended overhead. Hold for 10 seconds then switch sides.
Alternate: Dancer’s Pose
Stand tall and lift right leg behind you, bending at the knee. Catch top of the foot with right hand. Keeping left leg straight, slowly raise right foot behind you and lean slightly forward. Left arm lifts to ceiling in front of you. Balance for 10 seconds then switch legs.
11. Inner Thighs
“Your inner thighs might not be the most powerful muscle group, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get tight,” says Liz Barnet, certified trainer at Uplift Studios and SLT in New York City. “Whether from underutilization, lack of functional movement, or just sitting in a chair with your legs crossed, your inner thighs can get just as tight as your more active muscle groups.” And you don’t want to ignore them as that can create muscle imbalances.
Try: Seated Saddle Stretch
Sit with legs extended straight out in front. Separate them to respective sides as wide as you can, sitting equally on both sit bones. Flex toes up towards ceiling, sit up straight, and begin walking hands out in front of you as far as possible. Make sure to keep your back straight—that’s more important than how far you go. Hold for 30 seconds. (If you can’t touch the floor, grab a yoga block or just touch with fingertips.)
Alternate: Frog Pose Stretch
Kneel on a cushioned surface like a yoga mat or rug with hands flat on the floor in front of you. Start to separate knees apart, keeping shins and tops of feet pressing down into ground. If it’s too intense, support more of your body weight with your hands and upper body. Hold for 30 seconds.
“The hamstrings are very easy to pull and/or injure,” Wegman says. “This can be due to many factors, including not warming up before exercising, tight quadriceps pulling your pelvis forward and tightening the hamstrings, and weak glute muscles.” Your glutes work in tandem with your hamstrings and can overload your hamstrings if they’re weak.
Try: Scissor Hamstring Stretch
Stand with feet together. Step your right foot back about two feet behind left, staggered, and bend forward from hip joint, keeping your back and both legs straight. Either keep hands on hips or place gently on shin. Hold for 30 seconds then switch sides.
Alternate: Good Morning Stretch
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Interlace your hands behind your head. With a slight bend in knees, hinge at hips and bend forward, keeping back flat. Hold for 10 seconds then release. Repeat two more times. Stop if you feel your back start to round.
While the Achilles is a small tendon, it’s not too fragile. “The issue becomes that we overuse our soleus (or deep calf muscle) and plantar fascia, putting the Achilles in a constant stretch, which makes our gastrocnemius or upper calf muscles and our glutes inefficient,” explains Reavy. “Muscles need to lengthen and then shorten with every movement, and in this case the muscle is so tight there is a constant pull on the Achilles, which isn’t good.”
Try: Soleus Stretch
Standing with feet hip-width apart, step right foot forward about two feet and plant foot firmly on ground. Lift toes of right foot toward ceiling and dig heel into ground.
Alternate: Planter Fascia Ball Stretch
Place tennis ball or lacrosse ball under right foot. Apply as much body weight as comfortable as you roll ball under bottom of foot. Roll for 30 seconds then switch feet.
To your health and wellness!
See the full article from Greatist here