How To Hit the Hardest-To-Stretch Muscles in Your Body, According to a Chiropractor

Photo: Getty Images/ dragana991
Even if you're diligent enough to stretch after every workout (which, might I just say, cheers to you), there are still some muscles throughout your body that aren't getting the attention they deserve. While it might be easy to forward fold your way out of tight hamstrings and pigeon pose away hip tension, there are certain spots that are decidedly more difficult to hit—which could explain why you're still sore even after a full-blown stretch sesh.

Ahead, Keren Day, DC, chiropractor and co-founder of Racked Stretch studio, reveals the five hardest muscles to stretch, plus what you should do any time you need them to breathe a sigh of relief.

Experts In This Article

1. Pectoral muscles

Your pecs—which run from your chest to your shoulders—tend to get tight when you're spending most of your waking hours hunched over a laptop. "The muscles contract from being rounded all day, and if you don’t work to keep them lengthened, it makes it that much more difficult to obtain ergonomically correct spinal alignment," says Dr. Day.

How to stretch your pecs:

  1. Lie on top of a foam roller so that it's aligned with your spine, running down the length of your body.
  2. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor, place your arms out to the side with your palms up toward the ceiling, and make 'snow angels' by slowly moving your arms up and down. This, says Dr. Day, will help to gently open up your pecs.
  3. Repeat for one minute.

2. Sartorius muscle

If you're dealing with unexplained knee pain, it may be due to tension in your sartorius muscle. "This muscle is otherwise known as the tailor muscle, and crosses two major joints of the lower body: the hip and the knee," says Dr. Day. "A tight one of these can contribute to pesky inner knee pain and hip tightness."

How to stretch your sartorius muscle:

  1. Start lying on one side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Bring your bottom leg in front of you and bend your knee so that your knee and hip create a 90-degree angle, then bend the knee of your top leg to 90 degrees and let it rest on the floor.
  2. Grab the ankle of your top leg and use your top hand to pull it back toward your butt (you can place your bottom hand on the floor for support), then lift your ankle out toward the side while keeping your knee on the floor.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

3. Soleus muscle

You're probably familiar with the gastrocnemius muscle, one of the muscles in your calves. Below that is the soleus muscle, which likely isn't getting quite enough love in your stretch routine. "It only crosses the ankle joint and can be difficult to stretch because the larger muscle that sits on top gets all the attention," says Dr. Day. "Stretching the soleus can help loosen those tight calves and help create more mobility in the ankle."

How to stretch your soleus muscle:

  1. Start by lying on your back, and then place a stretch strap around the ball of one foot while extending the other leg long on the floor.
  2. Raise the leg with the strap, then bend and straighten it toward the ceiling, keeping your foot flexed.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

4. Rhomboid muscle

"Your rhomboids are the muscles between the shoulder blades, which are constantly being tugged on or eccentrically contracted all day—kind of like a stretched-out elastic band," says Dr. Day, adding that these are the counter muscles to your pectoral muscles. In order to stretch them properly, you'll want to add a little pressure in order to help increase oxygen to the tissue, which Dr. Day says will help revive the muscle and help them get back into their proper position.

How to stretch your rhomboids:

  1. Lie on a long foam roller so it is vertical with your spine (knees bent and feet on the floor) and gently lift one arm and pull it across your body. Be sure the foam roller is on the rhomboid of the moving arm to get the best stretch.
  2. Hold for one minute, then switch sides.

5. Psoas Muscle

The psoas muscle is often referred to as the back pain muscle, and stretching it out can be a game-changer for anyone dealing with back pain. It starts at your mid/lower back and extends down through your hips to your femur, essentially connecting your upper body to your legs. "This muscle flexes the torso at the hips, and when it gets tight, it will fight to stay taught and keep you bent at the waist," says Dr. Day. "This means your back muscles have to work so much harder to keep your body in the upright position."

How to stretch your psoas:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up and slide a foam roller or rolled-up yoga mat under your lower back.
  2. Pull your knees toward your chest, and slowly straighten one leg (while holding the other knee to anchor you), and drop your heel to the ground. Let it linger for a second, then pull your knee back into your chest. Repeat five or six times and switch to the other side.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Need some more stretching inspiration? Follow along with the video below. 

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