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Shortened muscles: Why is stretching so important and what are the best exercises for flexibility?

Shortened muscles – what does it mean? When the muscles contract , the muscle fibers shorten, increasing the tension in the muscle. When the contraction is complete, the muscle fibers lengthen and the tension decreases. However, in a muscle spasm, the muscle fibers remain shortened and may not lengthen due to fatigue or improper fluid intake and nutrition.

Some muscles tend to shorten while other muscles weaken. Therefore, it is important to know which muscles should be stretched and which should be strengthened.

Shortened muscles: What are the causes?

Muscle shortening - what it is how to treat it.

Our daily habits, such as sitting in front of the computer for a long time , cause our body to develop muscular imbalances or disharmonies. In a muscular imbalance, the quality of movement deteriorates because the flexor (flexion) is too strong and the extensor (extension) is too weak, or vice versa.

In a muscular imbalance, the entire functional chain from the head to the feet is affected. When one muscle in the muscle chain is shortened, it affects the tension of the other muscles and, in the worst case, puts the entire chain out of action.

The importance of phasic and tonic muscles

Poor posture can lead to shortened muscles

The fibers in our body can be roughly divided into two types: First, there are tonic muscles, which are responsible for maintaining posture and tend to shorten, and second, there are phasic muscles, which are responsible for maintaining movement and tend to weaken easily.

Tonic muscles need length through regular flexibility training , while phasic muscles need stability and strength through regular strength training. In flexibility training, care must be taken to ensure that the muscles are appropriately loaded and supported according to their type. This means that the following tonic muscles in particular should be stretched through flexibility training:

  • Hip flexors
  • muscles of the lower back
  • Muscles of the neck, chest and shoulders
  • Front and rear leg muscles

In contrast, the following phasic muscles need to be strengthened:

  • Deep neck muscles
  • Muscles of the back, chest
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Chain of leg extensors, glutes, quadriceps, calves
  • Small muscles of the arms and legs

What to do about shortened muscles: The best exercises for flexibility

Shortened muscles – calves

You can counteract the shortening of muscles with regular stretching exercises

Here’s how: Walk slowly in place while extending your entire back leg. Extend your heel backward while the knee of the other leg is in the air.

Focus: Long posterior chain, stable torso.

Repetitions:
After warm-up: walk slowly for 1 minute, alternating slow and dynamic calf stretches, 1 to 2 sets.
Post workout: walk slowly for 2 to 3 minutes, linger in each stretch position for 10 seconds. 1 to 2 sets.

Shortened Muscles – Posterior Thighs.

What to do about shortened muscles


How to do it: Stand with your legs parallel and make your spine as long and straight as possible. Then tilt your torso forward from the hips – with your back straight.

Center of gravity: straighten your back

Repetitions:
After warm-up run: 3 to 5 slow dynamic stretches. 1 to 3 sets.
After workout: stay in stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds, intensify stretch after 2 to 3 breaths. 1 to 2 sets.

Shortened muscles – hips and front thighs.

How often should you do stretching exercises against shortened muscles

Here’s how it works in 3 steps:
1. do a lunge with both feet forward. Your pelvis stays upright, your arms drop free.
2. Keep your pelvis straight, then deepen and stretch your back leg at the same time.
3.Reinforce the stretch by gently rotating your body toward the front leg.

Focus: Straight pelvis (no sunken back!) and long back leg.

Repetitions:
After warm-up run: 3 to 5 slow dynamic stretches. Then switch sides. 1 to 3 sets.
After workout: stay in stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds, intensify stretch after 2 to 3 breaths. Change sides, 1 to 2 sets.

Stretching for the gluteal muscles

Can stretching make muscles longer


Here’s how it works in 3 steps:
1. while standing, bend your right leg and place your right foot over your left thigh.
2. slowly bend your knee as if you were sitting on a chair.
3. press your buttocks backward and upward.

Muscles can shorten as well as grow longer

Focus: Straight and aligned spine, long neck.

Repetitions:
After warm-up run: 3 to 5 slow dynamic stretches. 1 to 3 sets.
After workout: stay in stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds, intensify stretch after 2 to 3 breaths. Change sides, 1 to 2 sets.

Stretch for the inner thighs

Is it better to stretch before or after exercise

Here’s how it works: lunge to the side with your feet pointing forward. Move your pelvis and torso to your left leg.

Center of gravity: straighten your spine

Repetitions:
After warm-up: Slowly and dynamically stretch the right and left sides 3 to 5 times. 1 to 3 sets.
After workout: stay in stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds, intensify stretch after 2 to 3 breaths. Change sides, 1 to 2 sets.

Lateral stretching

What are the causes of shortened muscles

Here’s how it works in 3 steps:
1. cross the right leg in front of the left.
2. move the stretched right arm diagonally upwards – your head is in line with your spine.
3. pull the right hand further up with the left hand and increase the stretch.

Focus: opening of the sides

Repetitions:
After warm-up: Slowly and dynamically stretch the right and left sides 3 to 5 times. 1 to 3 sets.
After the workout: stay in the stretching position for 20 to 30 seconds, intensify the stretch after 2 to 3 breaths. Change sides, 1 to 2 sets.

How often should you do stretching exercises against shortened muscles.

What happens in the muscle when stretching

The exercises should be done once a week to maintain your current flexibility, or 2-3 times a week to improve your flexibility. Ideally, the exercises should be done after a warm-up run or workout.

Each stretch should be held for 20 to 60 seconds, increasing in intensity after 2-3 breaths.