How do I Loosen Up a Tight Muscle?

You may find that following a warm-up, some parts of your body seem stubbornly tight. Whilst most of your body is free and ready to move, a couple of areas feel as though they’ve been replaced with concrete! This ‘localised tightness’ occurs seemingly at will, but there is something you can do to fix it.


Determine whether the issue is due to mobility or flexibility


There are two types of tightness. Either the muscle itself is gripping hold of you like an angry anaconda, or the joint and surrounding fibrous tissue have decided to take a day off. So you may have a flexible ankle but the calf muscle is stopping movement, or you may have a flexible calf but the ankles connective tissue is preventing movement.


To determine what type of problem you have, try to narrow down the localised tightness to a single joint and take that joint through full range of movement for a few minutes. This can be done actively or passively (i.e. someone moving your shoulder for you, or you moving your ankle with your hands). Does this fix the tightness? If so, keep working on some mobility drills for that joint and everything should loosen up.


If your body still feels as delicate as glass, then stretch the hell out of the area and all the muscles surrounding the joint. If you think your hamstrings are tight, it might be another muscle next-door that’s fooling you into thinking it’s a hamstring problem, so try stretching all the muscles associated with the joint in question.


For example, after the warm-up, the back of your right leg feels tight. You do a few one-legged deadlifts and step over some hurdles to see if it’s a mobility issue. It doesn’t help. So you stretch the hamstrings, adductors, glutes and every hip-extensor related muscle you can think of. Suddenly it’s pretty obvious that the glutes are the issue and a few intense stretches makes you feel immediately looser, add in a little soft tissue work with a foam roller/PVC pipe/lacrosse ball and you’re good to go.


So determine if it’s a mobility or flexibility issue (it can be both), and take the necessary steps to loosen up! Sometimes it takes a little effort to discover the problem, but the more you search the easier it will be to understand your body and make yourself move and feel better.