Muscle tightness after a workout? Tight muscles can be frustrating, painful, and limit your movement. Worst, tight muscles can make it difficult to keep to your exercise routine. It is important to know how to prevent and manage tight muscles. There are many reasons that muscles can become tighter. There are three situations when muscle tightness is possible: after exercise, prolonged inactivity, and afterwards.

What causes muscle tightness? Some muscles become tightened due to restricted movement during prolonged inactivity. Your hips will be bent or flexed when you sit at a desk. The hip flexors (muscles at the front of your hip) are shortened, while the glutes (muscles at the back) are lengthened. As you reach forward at your computer to use it, your chest muscles (called pectorals) will become shorter while your upper back muscles, called rhomboids, will become longer. This can lead to muscle imbalances, with the shorter muscles becoming tighter and the longer muscles becoming weaker. You’ll see many people with rounded shoulders and weak glutes. Three factors are key to preventing tightness from decreased range of motion. It is essential to maintain correct posture even when seated. Strengthening weak and long muscles is also important. It would help if you also stretched tightened muscles, particularly the chest and Hip Flexors.

Exercise can also cause muscles to tighten, such as a cramp. Cramps can be unpleasant and often painful sensations caused by muscle fatigue, low potassium, or low sodium. Even if you don’t exercise, muscle cramps can still occur. Tension in muscles increases when they contract. After the contraction is complete, the muscle fibres become longer and with less tension. However, muscle cramps can cause muscle contractions that are too short and cannot be lengthened due to fatigue, poor nutrition, or inadequate hydration. Forcefully stretching the muscle in a contracted, tight form can cause injury and tear the fibres. Before you relieve the cramp, allow the muscle spasms to relax and recover. To prevent them from happening again, ensure you are well hydrated and properly fed. An electrolyte replenishing beverage may be helpful if you are engaged in prolonged exercise sessions lasting more than 60 minutes.

Exercise can also cause muscle tightening. This can be felt as soreness. Dominant onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, can be experienced in pain and stiffness within the muscles 24 to 72 hours after exercise. DoMS can be intense after exercises emphasising eccentric contractions, where weight is decreased or slowed. Eccentric exercises include the downward phase in a bicep curl or downhill running. Small muscle tears can cause soreness and tightness. You can prevent it by increasing the intensity of your exercise program. The soreness usually goes away within 72 hours. However, massage or moderate-intensity exercise can increase blood flow to the area. Although stretching does not relieve soreness or static (or holding), stretches can be useful to improve or maintain flexibility.

Correct exercise, stretching, nutrition, and other strategies can prevent or correct muscle tightness. A decreased range of motion can cause tightness if you have a good posture and do stretches. Muscle cramps can be prevented by the proper intensity and pre-, during and post-exercise nutrition. Proper exercise progression and static stretching after exercise can help prevent DOMS and maintain mobility.

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