Possibly everyone wakes up with stiff muscles. This could be of the quads, lower back, hamstrings, or the neck. Many people think that stretching is only reserved for runners, athletes, and gymnasts, which might explain why so many experience muscle tightness. Truth is, we all need to stretch regularly to loosen up tight muscles and increase our mobility and flexibility. Without doing so we tend to limit the range of motion in our joints and increase our risk for joint pain and muscle damage. With that in mind, we would like to discuss the concept of how to loosen tight muscles by stretching.
What Causes Muscle Stiffness?
You have likely experienced muscle stiffness at one point in your life or other and probably blamed it on some outside factors. But what do experts say about this concept and its causes? According to Medical News Today, muscle stiffness occurs when muscles are tight and difficult to move (8).
This type of muscle tightness may affect only a few muscles or your entire body. When this results in pain throughout your body, you experience systemic muscle pain (2). Muscle tightness is accompanied by discomfort, cramping or pain (8).
You need to understand the cause of muscle tightness to distinguish the best strategy for addressing it. One common cause of muscle stiffness is from exercise. Your muscles may become stiff after starting a new exercise routine or increasing its intensity and duration (8).
That said, muscle tightness is also caused by sprains, repetitive strain injuries, Lyme diseases, Lupus, muscle cramp, and Rheumatoid arthritis (2). Below we will focus on alleviating muscle stiffness using exercise. We will discuss how you can loosen up tight muscles in various body parts by stretching.
How To Loosen Tight Muscles In Legs?
Tight leg muscles may make walking difficult, making it all the more important to loosen up these muscles. There are many possible ways you can loosen tight leg muscles. However, it would help if you targeted loosening various leg muscles. Take a look at how you can loosen up different leg muscles:
The Calf Muscles (Calves)
Calf Raises On A Step
The following exercise can help you loosen up tight calves and also strengthen and stretch them. Here is a guide on how to do this exercise:
- Stand with your toes and the front half of your feet at the edge of a step. Your heels should be hanging back over the edge.
- Place your hands on your hips and slowly rise up on the balls of your feet.
- Lower back down to the point where your heels drop just below the balls of your feet.
- Repeat ten times.
Seated Towel Stretch
As the name suggests, you will need a towel and assume a seated position to perform this exercise. Here are more detailed steps:
- Sit on the floor and stretch your legs out in front. Make sure your back is straight.
- Take your towel or exercise band and loop it around your upper foot and the toes of your right leg. It would help if you were holding the two ends of the towel or band in your hands.
- Gently pull the ends back while flexing the toes towards your body.
- Hold this stretch for thirty seconds and then release.
- Rest for thirty seconds and repeat three times for each leg.
We have three hamstring muscles in total running along the back of our thighs (10). They start at the bottom of our pelvis, cross our knees, and end at the lower part of our legs. These muscles enable us to extend our legs straight, in addition to bending our knees (10).
If these muscles become stiff, bending our knees and stretching out our legs becomes difficult or painful. You can get rid of stiffness in these muscles using the following exercises (7):
Standing Hamstring Stretch
The following stretch will give your tight hamstrings a thorough stretch. All you have to do is:
- Stand upright and maintain your spine in a neutral position.
- Stretch your right leg in front of you and flex the foot. Make sure the heel is pushed into the ground, and the toe is pointing up.
- Slightly bend your left knee. Lean forward and place your hands on the stretched right leg.
- Hold the stretch for ten to thirty seconds. Remember to keep a neutral spine.
- Repeat two to four times on each leg.
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Sitting Hamstring Stretch
To perform the sitting hamstring stretch, you will have to do the following:
- Sit on the floor and stretch your right leg in front of you. Bend the left leg at the knee and let its foot face inward. This position is popularly known as the butterfly position.
- Let your right leg be slightly bent at the knee.
- Lean forward to reach out for your right ankle. Make sure you are bending at your waist and keeping your back straight.
- Hold this stance for ten to thirty seconds.
- Repeat two or three times on each leg.
These refer to muscles in the front of your thighs (4). When these muscles become stiff, they cause a misalignment in your hips and back, resulting in tremendous pain (4). You can avoid this pain by doing the following exercises to loosen up tight quads:
The Standing Quad Stretch
To do the standing quad stretch, you ought to:
- Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. You can place your left hand on a wall or bench for extra balance.
- Bend your right knee and bring the right foot up behind your body towards your butt.
- Grab the right foot using your right hand.
- Keep the right knee pointed towards the floor and push your hips forward and gently. Make sure you are keeping your thighs and knees together.
- Hold this for thirty seconds before switching legs and repeating.
The Lying Quad Stretch
The following quad stretch is an excellent alternative for loosening tight quads in individuals with knee pain. You can also opt for this exercise if standing exercises are not your eclair. To perform it, you must:
- Lie face-down and then prop your head on your left hand.
- Pull your right foot towards your butt using your right hand. You can bend your left knee for more stability.
- Maintain this stance for thirty seconds before stretching the leg to return to the initial position.
- Switch sides and do the same on your left leg.
How To Loosen Tight Lower Back Muscles?
Having a tight lower back can be both painful and uncomfortable. You can treat the pain by doing various stretches that stretch tight back muscles. These include:
The Knee-To-Chest Stretch
The knee-to-chest stretch helps in stretching your lower back and leg muscles. Here is how you do it (3):
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, and feet firmly pressed on the ground.
- Stretch your left leg and pull your right leg towards your chest. Make sure you stretch to a comfortable point that allows both your hips and back to stretch.
- Hold the stretch for fifteen seconds before releasing.
- Repeat five to ten times on each leg.
The Lumbar Rotation
The following exercise can help ease tightness in your lower back muscles if performed correctly. Below are the steps to guide you (1):
- Lie flat on your back.
- Extend your arms by your sides and bend your knees. Make sure you keep your feet flat on the ground.
- Start to lower your knees towards the ground on your left side to the point of comfort. Make sure your feet, shoulders, and arms remain pressed on the floor. Likewise, keep your head facing the ceiling.
- Hold this for twenty to thirty seconds before moving your knees to the center and lowering them on your right side.
- Repeat three to five times on each side.
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The Cat Cow Pose
- Start on your fours. Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders.
- Arch your back slowly and gently to move it towards the ceiling.
- Hold the stretch for a few seconds before releasing and lowering to an inverted position.
- Repeat ten to fifteen times.
How to Loosen Tight Neck Muscles
Stiff neck? Not able to rotate it as you wish without groaning? Try doing the following neck stretches. They rank among the best stiff neck remedies. They include:
- Start with your head placed in a neutral position.
- Drop your chin slowly towards your chest.
- Slowly roll your head to the right such that your right ear almost touches your right shoulder.
- Continue moving it on the right side, allowing the top of your head to face backward.
- Bring your head to the left side and let your left ear almost touch your left shoulder.
- Complete a full rotation by bringing your head in front of your body. Make sure you keep your chin tucked into your chest.
- Do at least five to ten neck rolls on each side.
The Side-To-Side Neck Exercise
You can also perform this exercise to get rid of stiffness in your neck region. All you must do is (9):
- Sit upright and relax your shoulders backwards. Make sure your head and neck are in a neutral position.
- Start to slowly move your head from your right to the left side. Keep your chin parallel to the ground.
- Let the rotations or movements be small and controlled to avoid overextending the neck muscles.
- Do five to ten rotations on each side.
The Forward Neck Stretch
This simple stretch can also help relieve tension and tightness in your neck muscles. Follow these steps to perform it (9):
- Stand or sit but make sure you maintain a straight back. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed.
- Interlace your fingers and place your palms at the back of your head. Your elbows must be facing forward.
- Pull your head down towards your head gently.
- Hold the stretch for thirty seconds.
- Release and repeat.
How To Loosen Tight Buttock Muscles
The best remedy to loosen tight glutes or buttock muscles is by performing helpful glutes’ stretches and exercises. Some of these include:
The Forward-Leaning Lunge
- Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Place your arms on your hips.
- Take one step back using your right foot and bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Lean slightly forward at your hip and keep your back straight throughout the movement.
- Hold for some seconds and then return to the standing position.
- Complete two or three sets, each with eight reps per side.
The Side-Lying Leg Lift
Besides fixing tight glutes, this exercise can also reduce back pain and improve your overall stability (6). All you have to do is:
- Lie on your right side. Make sure you rest your head on a pillow.
- Bend the left knee so that it comes in front of your body. That foot should rest on the calf of your right leg.
- Raise the knee upward and slowly, keeping the foot on the calf.
- Repeat eight to ten times before switching legs.
The Bottom Line
Are you feeling stiff and want to loosen stiff muscles? The first thing you ought to do is determine where these tight muscles are. After pinpointing them, look for a practical guide on how to loosen tight muscles in these areas.
In most cases, guides will recommend you perform various stretches and exercises. As always, only perform or add these exercises to your routine after seeking professional advice. Remember always to hold your stretches and follow the guidelines to the core to help alleviate the stiffness or pain.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Causes and treatment of a stiff lower back (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Muscle pain (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Slide show: Back exercises in 15 minutes a day (2016, mayoclinic.org)
- The best stretches for runners (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Tight calves: Causes, treatment, stretches, and more (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Tight glutes: Stretches and prevention (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What are the best stretches for tight hamstrings? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What causes muscle soreness and stiffness? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What to know about neck tension (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- When and How Should I Stretch My Leg Muscles? (2019, webmd.com)