Do you ever feel tight the day after a hard workout, sitting at a desk all day or being in a car for an extended period of time?
Most of us will likely feel tightness of some kind after any of these.
After a workout or a weekend of working on the house, you may experience muscle stiffness and soreness due to lack of recovery. However, the other examples all point to one common issue: lack of movement. Each case of tightness due to inactivity can likely be remedied by, you guessed it, moving!
Feeling tight does not necessarily mean you are physically tight. Someone can feel like they have tight hamstrings but pass every flexibility test, while other don’t feel tight at all but do not fare so well in the tests. A lot of it comes down to perception and how sensitive your nervous system has become. For example, sitting at a desk as part of your daily activity may make you “feel” tight. However, the daily routine of the activity may unconsciously trick your mind into “feeling” that you are tight. In other words, the repetition creates a learned response or threat, but in the end, it is the lack of blood flow and recovery that are the real threats.
What we really need is to get moving to increase blood flow. Healthy circulation of blood promotes muscle health and flexibility.
So, break up any routine periods of inactivity with stretches, walks or tasks that get you on your feet. A light stretch every hour or so can go a long way!
The gym is a place for movement. Getting to the gym and foam rolling right away, or stretching right away, before warming up is not optimal and can make things worse. When you arrive at the gym, warm up the entire body. This will prepare your muscles for your workout and support recovery.
If you are squatting, warm up your upper body. If the shoulders, chest, or thoracic spine are not warmed up, your squat mechanics will suffer. If you are benching and do no not warm up your lower body, your performance will likely suffer and raise your injury risk.
Blood is healing so let’s get it flowing.
It doesn’t have to take long. Try a little barbell circuit, squats, rows, overhead press, good mornings and RDLs. You can also do band walks, band rows, face pulls and external rotations. Just do a little something to warm up the entire body. You should be sweating before you even start your workout!
In some cases, other techniques such as fascia or adhesion work may be necessary. These methods are great and can provide temporary relief. However, a full body warm up should always be used first, as this may reduce the need for those more aggressive techniques.
If more aggressive techniques are needed, a proper warm up is required to make them more effective anyways. These methods can increase the body’s sensitivities and the nervous system will learn to “need” the stimuli to reduce the “feeling” of tightness if they are overused.