Stiff muscles the day after exercising can be remedied and avoided if you stretch properly after a workout. But be careful how you stretch so you don't pull a muscle and sideline your fitness plan. In addition to treating your body to a warm bath, you can perform proper stretching moves to alleviate muscle stiffness and allow you to continue with your body-slimming and toning plan.
Stretching Dos and Don'ts
One common stretching don't that people engage in is ballistic stretching. This type of stretching involves repeatedly bouncing into the stretch. While this might look cute when performed by cheerleaders, you can injure yourself with bouncy stretching. Instead do static stretches in which you move slowly until you feel the targeted muscles stretching. Hold the stretch for 10 counts, and then slowly release. Another common stretching don't is doing static stretches before a workout. You do need to warm up your body before getting your sweat on, but do that with a brisk walk or by marching in place. Save the stretches for after your workout when your muscles are warm and loose.
Upper-Body Stretching Exercises
Proper stretching of your upper-body muscles can ease stiffness and help you avoid it after your next workout. Stretch the muscles of your arms and chest by grasping your hands behind your back and lifting them toward the ceiling. Loosen and cool down your back, arm and oblique muscles by extending your arms overhead, grasping your hands together, and alternately leaning to the right and the left. Touch your toes to feel the stretch in your back, core and hamstrings.
Lower-Body Stretching Exercises
There's nothing less savory than stiff leg muscles when you're trying to show off your latest little black dress and high heels ensemble. Ease stiffness in your lower body with a quad stretch. Stand in front of a wall with your right hand on the wall. Lift your left foot up toward your tush while grasping it with your left hand. Repeat the stretch on the other side. Don't forget about your inner and outer thigh muscles, which can also get stiff from a workout. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and legs splayed out toward the sides while your feet touch. Lean your upper body forward as you draw your feet closer to your body to stretch the inner and outer thighs, hips and booty.
Regularly performed stretching exercises help keep your muscles loose and your body limber, and they help maintain your range of movement. You can strut your stuff on the beach or at a party with toned, elongated muscles achieved through a combination of cardio, strength training and stretching exercises. If muscle stiffness persists or becomes painful, it would be smart to see your doctor to get to the root of the problem.
Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.