Photo Credit: Dina Telhami/flickr open/getty images
Muscles can become sore for a multitude of reasons. Whether you’re sore from a recent workout or you simply slept the wrong way, your muscles can react to the unusual movement and become tight and stiff. But not to worry -- there are stretches to help soothe your soreness.
Before intense stretching, it’s best to warm up the body with a brisk walk or jog for 5 to 10 minutes -- just to loosen your muscles and maximize the benefits of your stretching. Never stretch further than what is comfortable for you.
For sore biceps:
Stand with your back about arm's length away from a wall. “Start off standing with good posture and extend your right arm straight back, with a straight elbow,” suggests Marilyn Moffat, Ph.D., Professor of Physical Therapy at New York University. Press the back of your right hand against the wall. Once you are comfortable, gently bend your knees to really feel the release and stretch in the bicep. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then repeat with the other arm (if needed).
For sore triceps:
“This stretch you can do sitting or standing, as long as you are in good postural alignment,” says Moffat. Start by reaching your right hand up over your head. Then bring your hand down toward the middle of your back -- go as far as comfortably possible. If you need more of a stretch, gently push down on the right elbow with your left hand. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
For sore shoulders:
This is another stretch you can do either sitting or standing. Start with your chin tucked in. Reach your right arm up and let your right hand reach toward the middle of your back. Your elbow should be behind your head, your right palm should be touching your body and your fingers should be pointing downward. Then, reach your left arm out to the side and bring your left hand toward the middle of your back with your palm facing outward and fingers pointing upward. Try to touch or overlap your middle fingers. This will make the shoulders move in their general range of motion and help release any built up tension.
For sore calves:
Stand facing a wall and place the ball of your foot up against it. Lean your hips and chest into the wall and hold for a slow count of 20. Repeat two more times.
“It’s good because it gets the calf and the Achilles tendon, and tightness in this area can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis or heel spurs,” Michele Olson, Ph.D., a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.
For sore thighs:
Get in a lunge with your right leg behind you. Gently place your right knee, shin and front of foot down on the floor. Squeeze your glutes, lean forward onto the front leg and tuck your pelvis under you.
“This is an excellent stretch for the front of the thigh and hip flexors. Many individuals with tight quads and hip flexors have difficulty squatting down to pick up their purses or common items such as groceries bags and end up straining the back muscles.”
For a sore butt:
Sit on the floor with straight legs. Bend your left leg, and bring your left foot to the outside of your right leg. Rotate your torso so you are facing the left. Use your right arm to pull your left thigh inward. “You will feel an amazing stretch in the deep gluteals," Olson says. Repeat on the opposite side.
For sore abs:
Lay face down and place your hands under your shoulders. Press up on your forearms to lift your upper body away from the floor. Look straight ahead.
“This move will stretch your abs and allow your spine to reposition itself, helping you to keep a balance between the abs muscles on the front of your trunk and your back muscles along the spine,” Olson says.
For a sore upper back:
“Try the ‘fake hug’ stretch,” suggests Liz DiAlto, a fitness and lifestyle coach in New York City. You can do this standing or seated. With your spine in a neutral position, reach your arms forward (parallel to the ground) and grab each elbow with the opposite hand. Once you're in this position, drop your head (let it hang naturally), then round your upper back and gently pull on each elbow. Play around with this to feel the stretch in different areas of the upper back. You can pull side to side or up and down. When you find the position that feels like the best stretch for you, hold it there.
For a sore lower back:
Lay on your back and hug your knees tightly into your chest first. Release the knees but keep your feet off the floor -- your legs should stay bent at about 90 degrees. Keep your hands on top of your knees and gently guide them first in clockwise circles, then reverse to counter clockwise circles.
For a sore chest:
“Remember the scene from Titanic where Jack is shouting 'I'm king of the world'? You're going to do exactly that, but in a doorway,” DiAlto explains. Stand a few inches in front of a doorway, reach your arms back to grab hold of the wall behind you and slowly, with control, lean forward. You will feel this stretch opening your chest. Depending on your flexibility move farther away from the doorway or closer to it.
It’s important to remember that there is both “good” soreness and “bad” soreness, and it's equally important to be able to differentiate between the two. “A mild discomfort during stretching is fine,” Moffat advises, “but pain is not.” Be sure to consult your doctor with any serious pain you may be experiencing, especially if the soreness persists or worsens.