Considering we have more access to information than ever before we still hide from health related help all the time. If you ask most people they will say they get stiff, tight and sore and they know they should stretch….but we don’t.
It’s a common thing nowadays for us to know there is a simple answer and yet ignore it or look for an easier solution! No matter what you do, whether you train or just love sitting down, a walker, climber, runner or love sleeping we all need to stretch and release tightness from our muscles.
We all get tight and sore at some point, however many write it off as an injury without examination when in reality their muscles are too tight to move correctly. Most people just say “it’s been like this for ages”, “I must have pulled it at some point”, “it’s just age”. They write this off as a pull or a tear (it seems we are becoming very good at self diagnosis these days), or that squats or deadlifts were the cause. THESE LIFTS DO NOT HURT YOU. Doing them in-correctly will hurt you, lifting too heavy will hurt you and trying to force tight muscles to stretch while bearing heavy weights will hurts you.
But why not do something about it, in fact the solution is simple and free – Stretch and Foam Roll. You can even splash out on a Sports Massage and assess where you are tight. If you are tight you will not move to your full ability. This can lead to further tightness and your body will find a different way to create the movement you are forcing. If your legs and hips are tight then your back will take the brunt to create the movement, this will lead to pain.
So how do we resolve this issue and get rid of the pain?Well the two areas to focus on will be TIGHT MUSCLES and WEAK MUSCLES.
If an area is tight then range of motion will come from another area to compensate. If a muscle is weak it will rely on another muscle group to perform. Areas of tightness are often promoted by areas of weakness so lets look further into the main offenders.
HIP FLEXORS + WEAK CORE
What are the hip flexors? They are a group of muscles around the top of your thighs that connect your upper leg to your hip and as the name suggest create “flexion” in the hip.That lower back pain you have after sitting all day at work and the burning shins you feel after a run may all be traced back to having tight hip flexors and a weak core. If your core muscles are weak then your hip flexors will try and pick up the slack. Any muscle that isn’t working will rely on another to perform the action leading to issues. These muscles are used in many movements from squat and deadlifts to bench press and military press. Ever wondered why you get a sore back from bench pressing? Yes tightness of the hips can cause back pain when benching. So what are the other offenders?
THE QUADRICEPS + GLUTES
Your quadriceps are the muscles located on the front of your thigh. There are four of them as the name suggests and if some of these muscles are tight or under developed it will cause an imbalance to the group. This can lead to pain of the knee or hips and causes issues/pain in sports and movement. By pulling the pelvis down into what is know as Anterior Pelvis Tilt (ATP), tight quadriceps can lead to painful lower back muscles while also contributing to weakness in the hamstrings by the quadriceps overuse.
There a number of reasons why you can become tight, generally it seems it is a combination of a few things:
SITTING TOO LONG
STANDING TOO LONG
WEAKNESS OF A MUSCLE GROUP
TIGHTNESS OF A MUSCLE GROUP
All of these will lead towards tightness, pain and eventually injury. BUT you can easily change this by doing the following:
VARY YOUR POSITONS – Sitting gets the blame for issues with tightness and mobility problems when it is really any position that is adopted for long periods of time. As most of us sit for most of the day, sitting has become a demon when it comes to mobility problems. Try not to stay in one position for a long period, split this up by moving positions and postures and maybe even include stretching into your daily routine.
STRETCH + FOAM ROLL – If you do not stretch or foam roll currently then start doing so now. Ask advice as many people foam roll like they’re trying to roll pastry. It’s your body, be gentle and gradually build up the weight you apply. Focus on an area and stop trying to roll the whole muscle in one go. Where stretching is involved the same principle applies, do not over stretch. If your muscles are tight you’re not going to loosen them in one go it will take time just like your training. And just like your training if you want to make progress you will need to keep it up regularly.
BENEFITS OF STRETCHING:
• Increased movement efficiency
• Decreased risk of injury
• Increased blood supply and nutrients to joint structures
• Increased neuromuscular coordination
• Decreased risk of low back pain
• Reduced muscular tension
• Improved balance and postural awareness
STRENGTHEN WEAK MUSCLES – The core and the glutes being the main areas focus. Strength does not mean you are going to bombard the muscle with weight and repetitions. It means you are going to focus on these areas during exercise and make
sure you are engaging them correctly. We will go into Glute and core exercises and strengthening programmes later this month but exercise like Ab Roll Outs and Diaphragmatic breathing drills will help ensure you are engaging the core and creating tension when lifting.
MASSAGE – Sports massage can help massively, especially to get you loosened up and focusing on the correct areas to stretch. A sport massage therapist can tell you which muscles are tight, what issues that will have on your movement and give you an idea of how to start fixing this. Contact us to discuss Sports Massage further.
ACTIVATION EXERCISES – These are isolation exercises that help you to focus on specific muscles and create a better mind-body connection with them. We can bring in Activation moves and mobility work into your daily routine, this helps to get the glutes activated while unlocking your hips. So by including the ACTIVATION along with the stretches, you are recruiting the under-active muscle and forcing it to work while stretching the overactive muscle and allowing it to relax. This can help with postural issues, reduce tightness throughout your body and allow for better movement.
CHEST FOAM ROLLING:
A tight chest will always hold you back from optimum posture and shoulder position. A foam roller is a good way to loosen up the chest however you may need to use a lacrosse ball to really get into the muscle and loosen up.
Place the foam roller on the ground and position yourself so you lie over the roller with it under your arm pit and across the chest. Alternatively if using the ball you want to start off against a wall with the ball positioned under you collarbone near your armpit. You want to work your way around the front of your shoulder and into your sternum focusing on any tight or sore spots.
BACK FOAM ROLLING:
Just as a tight chest will hold you back from optimum posture and shoulder position, a tight and overactive back is going to cause issues. A foam roller is a good way to loosen up both but you may need to use a lacrosse ball to really get into the muscle and loosen up.
Place the foam roller on the ground and position yourself so you lie over the roller with it under the back of your arm pit and across your back, specifically your Latissimus Dorsi. Alternatively if using the ball you want to start off against a wall with the ball positioned on the rear of your shoulder. You want to work your way around the shoulder, over your shoulder blade and across your back focusing on any tight or sore spots.
1. Donkey Kick – This move will wake up your entire core, activating your glutes and warming up your abs and shoulders. Don’t let the low back arch and make sure you draw your belly button in toward your spine. Make sure that as you lift you are squeezing the glute of the leg you are raising.
2. Glute Bridge – The glute bridge can be used for developing gluten strength as well as activation and can be performed bodyweight or with resistance.
3. Fire Hydrant – This is a great way to wake up the glute medius, a critical muscle for maintaining balance and preventing knee and ankle injuries.
4. Bird Dog – We’ve spoken about this before and with good reason as this is a great core stabiliser exercise. The key with the bird dog is to move slowly. You can add a band connecting your hand to your heel if you want to add resistance.
5. Side Plank with Leg Lift – While this is a great core exercise it is also a brilliant glute activation exercise.
NOW GET YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE DONE!
The routine below is a basic static stretching routine designed to complete on an exercise mat at the end of your workout.
It takes around 5 minutes so don’t over do it.
• Hold each stretch for 5-15 seconds and perform desired repetitions, repeat each side.
• You should feel mild discomfort as you stretch, but nothing too intense
• Don’t bounce as you stretch, just relax and exhale as you stretch the muscle
KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
Keeping Glutes squeezed, body upright, drive your hip forward and your knee into the ground. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat for 8-10 repetitions before repeating on the opposite side. Your iliopsoas muscle, one of the main hip flexors, is a deep muscle that requires isometric activation to stretch it.
Sink into a deep lunge with your hands on the ground and place your forward foot outside your hand. Hold for 5-10 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 2-5 times each side.
Lay flat on your back with both knees bent. Cross one leg over the other so your foot is on the opposite knee. Bring both knees towards your chest and gently pull the uncrossed leg towards you until you feel a stretch in your buttock. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on opposite side, repeat 3-5 times each side.
Keep your right leg forward, foot flat on the floor, and extend your left leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Don’t bend your back knee. Lean into the wall until you feel the stretch in the calf of the straight leg. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 3-5 times each side.
Sit of the floor with one leg straight out in front and point your toes upwards. Bring your other foot towards your knee and reach towards your toes with both hands.(You don’t have to touch your toes, reach down your leg past your knee and focus on stretching your hamstring) As you lean forward keep your back straight and DON’T let your shoulders round forward.
Give these stretches a go 2 – 3 times a week and see how much more flexible you feel through legs, hips and butt.