When your muscles are tight, they feel stiff and sore. When you work out, overreaching and failing to stretch your muscles after exercise can cause your muscles to tighten up. They can also tighten up when they have to compensate for the weakness of other muscles, as well as from mental stress. Muscle tightness causes tears in your muscles, so it's important to stretch your muscles, keep them warm and massage them. Stretching regularly and incorporating stretching into every workout will help you maintain loose muscles and prevent injuries. The three main stretching techniques to loosen your muscles are dynamic, static and assisted stretching.
Dynamic stretching means stretching while in motion as opposed to while being still, and it's shown to loosen tight muscles. Many dynamic stretches imitate sports movements in exaggerated and controlled movements. For example, walking straight leg kicks and walking lunges are dynamic stretches. Another dynamic stretch for your legs is walking high knee kicks. Pump one knee up as high as you can and raise your heel off the ground. Pump your arms bent at 90-degree angles.
Static stretching is holding a stretch without moving your muscles for 15 to 30 seconds at a time. It's effective and safe as long as your muscles are warm before you stretch. To stretch your hamstrings, stand with your feet together and extend your arms toward your toes as far as you can, bending from the hips. Then stand up straight and bend your knee to bring your heel to your buttock and hold your ankle to stretch your quad. To stretch your triceps muscles on the backs of your upper arms, raise one arm overhead, hold your bent elbow with your other hand and push it behind your head. You can loosen tight muscles in your lower back by kneeling with your knees and hands on the floor, then extending your hands as far in front of you as you can get them. This stretch is called Child's Pose in yoga. You may want to use carpet or a yoga mat for that stretch. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat for up to three repetitions.
PNF stretching, or assisted stretching, is considered among the most effective stretching techniques for improving your range of motion. Assisted stretching helps you stretch deeper, as your partner can give you more resistance than your body weight could in certain positions. Lie on your back on a mat and have a partner lift your leg as high as it can go to stretch your hamstring. Make sure your extended leg stays in line with your hip. To stretch your chest, sit on a mat and place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing outward. Have a partner stand behind you, lift his knee and place it on your upper back. Ask your partner to pull both of your elbows back to open up your chest.
It's important to incorporate stretching into every workout to reduce and avoid muscle tightness and promote faster muscle recovery. Warm up before working out for at least 10 minutes, then stretch your muscles after warming up. Cool down for at least five minutes after your workout, then stretch again.
- HealthyProgressTraining.com: Why do Muscles Tighten Up and Cause Pain?
- ExRx.net: Stretching and Flexibility
- Sport-Fitness-Advisor.com: Dynamic Stretching
- MayoClinic.com: Slide Show - a Guide to 10 Basic Stretches
- Sport-Fitness-Advisor.com: PNF Stretching
- ExRx.net: PNF Behind Head Chest Stretch
- James Madison University: Dynamic Flexibility and Mobility