After an intense workout, it's not uncommon to experience stiffness or soreness that hurts-to-move-anything feeling in your muscles. One of the best ways to combat this is to perform stretching exercises that can increase blood flow to the affected area, bringing healing and relief from soreness. Below are some simple and effective stretches you can use to ease muscle soreness in key areas.
Squats, deadlifts and hamstring curls (of course) are all exercises that can produce ultra-tight hamstrings the next day. While touching your toes is a common stretch for this area, it doesn't really allow you to access the entire muscle. Try the following stretches instead:
- Stand with your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart, and bend over to where you've basically "folded" your body in half at the waist. Now put your hands palms-down on your calf muscles (right hand on right calf, left
handon left calf), to where you're basically grabbing your calves with your hands. Holding this position, push up against your calves while also pushing your rear end backwards. You should feel a pull in your hamstring area once you do this, so just hold that stretch for about 10-15 seconds before releasing. Repeat as much as needed to loosen up those hams.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift up one leg and clasp both hands behind your knee. Now pull your knee into your chest as far as you can, and feel that hamstring stretch! Hold for about 10-15 seconds per stretch, and then repeat with the opposite leg.
2. Thighs (Quads)
Squats and leg extensions got your quads feeling rough? This simple stretch will help loosen them up: from a standing position, bend your knee and lift up your right foot behind you, then grab your ankle with your right hand. Now gently pull your foot up until your heel is touching your bottom, but keep your thigh perpendicular to the floor. You will feel a nice stretch that will run the length of your thigh muscle, from your knee to your hip. Hold for about 15-20 seconds and then repeat with the opposite leg.
Oh, those calves. They can get really sore after a long jog, or an intense Crossfit session (you know, the one with all those burpees). Your calves act as "shock absorbers" for your body, so if they're stiff, they can transfer a lot of shock and impact to your knees, which is not good. To keep your calves nice and loose, try this stretch: stand about arm's length away from a wall with your feet about eight inches apart. Now lean forward and put your hand on the wall for support, while also putting one of your legs behind you, to where your legs are in somewhat of a "split-step" position. Make sure the foot of your rear leg is firmly planted on the floor, but keep leaning forward so you create a 45-degree angle with your rear leg. You will definitely feel a stretch in your calf when you do this, but to maximize the stretch, be sure to keep your foot as flat on the floor as possible. Hold for about 15-20 seconds at a time, and then switch legs and repeat.
If those lat pulldowns have caught up with you, an effective stretch for your back muscles is definitely in order. From a standing position, clasp your hands together and interlock your fingers. Now slowly bend at the waist and extend your arms, turning your palms outward (with fingers still interlocked) to where they face the floor. Push outward with your hands and allow your back muscles to stretch and expand. Hold for about 10-15 seconds per interval.
Between push-ups, dips, military presses, and stints on the rowing machine, it's important to give your shoulders some stretching love to help them recover from grueling workouts. Cup one of your elbows with the opposite hand, and then bring your arm across your body, applying firm but gentle pressure to stretch out those shoulder muscles. Hold this position for about 15-20 seconds, then switch arms and repeat.
Sore muscles are an inevitable part of living an active lifestyle, but you don't have to let it slow you down. Use the stretching tips outlined above to help those muscles recover, so you can be primed and ready for your next workout!