Is your body a mass of minor, unexplained aches and pains? It’s possible that forgetting to stretch all your muscles is the culprit. Flexibility is one of the essential parts of fitness and often the most neglected. Who hasn’t seen people leaving group exercise classes during the final stretch — or engaged in similar behavior?
However, giving a little TLC to often-neglected body areas can increase your comfort and make you happier and more productive. Here are five muscles you’re probably forgetting to stretch.
Why It’s Important to Stretch Your Muscles
Why does it matter if you forget to stretch? Regular flexibility training stimulates blood flow while engaging your body’s relaxation response. It also helps you recover from prolonged sedentary activity like standing or sitting all day at work.
When you remain in one position for too long, the muscles begin to atrophy, leading to chronic pain. Everything from your bowels to your cardiovascular system function better when you bend, stretch and move occasionally.
However, injury can keep you on the sidelines, increasing sedentary behavior. It creates a negative feedback loop where activity creates pain, making you avoid it — but remaining inactive only increases the ache. Stretching helps to prevent injury by increasing your range of motion, meaning nothing rips or tears when you move suddenly to catch a falling glass.
5 Muscles You Probably Forget to Stretch (+ How to Stretch Them)
What muscles do people forget to stretch most often? Here are five that probably slipped your mind and how to correct the problem.
What happens when your hamstrings get tight? They can tug on your lower back, causing pain that affects your lifestyle and possibly your mental health.
People who sit all day at work will likely suffer from low back pain due to tight hamstrings. Fortunately, fixing the problem is as simple as touching your toes. You can perform a forward fold standing or seated. Best of all, try doing a legs up the wall at the end of the day to release the pressure.
Does your upper back ache by the day’s end? It could be your trapezius. This thick group of muscle tissue makes up much of your upper back and neck. The following two yoga poses can help you stretch it:
- Arm across chest: Begin sitting tall with your back straight. Drop your chin toward your chest, shoulders down. Extend one arm across your chest, pressing above the elbow and not on the joint. You might tilt your head toward the extended fingers to increase the stretch along the top part of the trapezius from your shoulder to your neck.
- Child’s pose: Get on all fours with your knees spread wide. Sink back until your bottom touches your heels with your arms extended in front of you. You can reach from side to side to adjust the stretch.
3. Erector Spinae
Your erector spinae muscles line your vertebrae, helping you stay upright with solid posture all day. Give them a break by doing some cat-cows.
Begin on all fours with a neutral spine. As you inhale, let your low back sink toward the floor as if weighed down by heavy udders. When you exhale, round your back like a scared Halloween kitty. You can also perform a seated version by placing your hands on your thighs and moving your spine similarly.
Your capitas muscles consist of several different bands that fan along the back of your neck. Working on a computer all day might make you familiar with end-of-day stiffness. Beat it with this stretch:
- Drop your chin to your chest.
- Slowly roll your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold for several seconds, then gently bring it back to the center and the side several times.
- Repeat on the left side.
You can increase this stretch by extending the arm opposite the direction you tilt your head.
5. ITB Band
If your hips feel vaguely achy all the time, it could be a tight ITB band. This thick cluster of connective tissue runs from your hip to your knee and can cause problems with either joint.
Stretch it like this:
- Lie on your back with both knees bent at 90 degrees.
- Cross one leg over the other and let the legs fall where the top knee is pointing. You’ll feel a deep stretch on the outside of the bottom hip.
Remember to Stretch
If you don’t stretch, your muscles can get tight, leading to injury and pain. Instead, pay attention to these five muscles you’re probably forgetting to stretch. You’ll feel happier and more productive in minutes.