Most of us have experienced muscle tightness at some point in our lives, which can be a frustrating issue.

If you're a regular exerciser or are constantly on the move, your muscles will inevitably get tight from time to time, especially if you do a lot of exercises that include your lower body like running, jumping, or cycling.

The good news is that there are some simple exercises you can do to keep your muscles from getting sore.

Tight muscles can be caused by many factors. These include stress, anxiety, depression, poor posture, lack of movement, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and too much exercise/not enough recovery.

A tight muscle can also take time to eventuate, this is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is muscle pain felt 1-2 days after a new or strenuous workout in the gym. 

Delayed onset muscle soreness is strongest 48 hours after the training session as this is the timeframe for the inflammatory response to peak and begin to repair the micro-damage done to the muscle tissue [1]. 

Muscle stiffness is caused in many ways. Some of the most common causes include:

1. Overuse

One of the major causes of muscle stiffness is working the muscle too hard and not allowing enough recovery. It's important to remember that your muscles need rest. The more time you spend working out, the more time you need to rest.

When you're spending hours in the gym every day, you're overworking your muscles and putting them under a lot of stress.

2. Dehydration

If you're dehydrated, your body pulls fluids from your muscles to hydrate your vital organs. When you rehydrate, your muscles return to their original state.

Drinking enough water when exercising can help to alleviate muscle tightness and muscle cramps.

3. Injury

Muscle stiffness caused by injury can be a common cause of pain.

This is because your body is trying to protect your injured area by cramping up the surrounding muscles. This is your body's way of telling you that something needs to be fixed and to take it easy.

It is best to seek physical therapy if you are suffering from an injury.

4. Stress

Unfortunately, stress can cause us to hold tension in our muscles, especially in our neck and shoulders which promotes muscle stiffness. 

It's essential to learn how to relax these muscles and to breathe deeply and slowly so we can relieve tension that's been trapped. Yoga is a great stress reliever.

Related Article - Why Do My Muscles Tighten Up When I Sleep?

man trying to relieve stress from the neck

How Do I Ease Leg Muscle Tightness?

Whether you're a pro athlete or a weekend warrior, you know the pain of muscle stiffness, particularly the leg muscles as these are large muscles in the body that can be trained hard. 

Often caused by overuse, tight leg muscles can be painful and, in severe instances, can keep you off the field or off the court. Muscle cramps can also occur when you have stiff muscles causing a lot of discomfort.

Try these quick stretches to ease your leg muscle tightness and get back at it.

For Tight Calf Muscles

Wall Calf Stretch

The wall calf stretch is a great way to open up your calves and Achilles when you're having trouble bending down to touch your toes. It can be done anywhere - whether at home or at the office.

  1. Stand next to a wall, placing your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall for support.
  2. Keeping your right leg straight, bend your left knee, and place your left foot behind you on the floor.
  3. Keeping your right knee pointed straight ahead, bend your right leg until you feel a stretch in your calf.
Towel Stretch

The towel stretch is a great yoga pose to help improve your overall flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness. This is a relatively simple movement that you can do anytime, anywhere. It requires no equipment and only takes a few minutes to complete.

With your legs out in front of you, grab a towel with both hands and loop it over your feet in a seated position. Gently pull on the towel so that your food bends towards the knee.

Hold for 15 seconds before repeating.

Related Article - Different Types Of Yoga & Their Benefits

For Tight Hamstring Muscles

Lying Hamstring Stretch

The lying hamstring stretch is a great exercise to stretch your hamstrings. It's an easy stretch to do and can be done anywhere. This one is guaranteed to help reduce tight leg muscles as your body is well supported by lying down so you're able to focus on a deep stretch.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent
  2. Bring your right knee to your chest and extend with a slight bend in the knee.
  3. You can use a resistance band here for added difficulty.
  4. Repeat with the left leg
Sitting Hamstring Stretch
  1. Sitting on the floor, extend one leg with a slight bend in the knee.
  2. Bend the opposite leg, so your foot touches the side of the knee of your outstretched leg.
  3. Bend forward at the waist, reaching for your foot.
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds before repeating with the other leg.
Standing Hamstring Stretch

Stand in an upright position.

Bend your right leg in the knee and bring the foot towards your buttocks. Place your right hand on your right thigh and your left hand under your right foot. 

Lean forward slowly and bring your chest towards your knee until you feel a stretch in your hamstring.

You can hold the stretch for a few seconds and then release.

For Tight Quadriceps Muscles

Standing Quad Stretch

Standing Quad Stretch is a great way to stretch the muscles on the front of your thigh and release muscle stiffness in your hip flexors.

If you spend a lot of time sitting down, or if you have tight quads, this stretch can help loosen them up and keep your legs feeling loose and limber.

Stand on one foot, grabbing the other foot at the ankle behind you. Pull your shin into your buttocks and hold for 30 seconds before repeating with the other leg.

Lying Quad Stretch
  1. Lie on your side, supporting your head with one hand.
  2. Bend your top leg at the knee and grab it with your other hand
  3. Maintain the stretch for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Kneeling Quad Stretch

Kneeling Quad Stretch is an excellent stretch for those on their feet all day or for athletes that spend a lot of time on their feet.

First, kneel on the floor on a mat or carpet. Ensure your heels are placed firmly on the floor and that your knees are placed directly below your hips.

Raise the opposite leg and hold at the ankle for 30 seconds before repeating with the opposite leg.

Related Article - Yoga Vs Stretching (Differences Compared)

woman stretching before the run

5 Tips To Prevent Muscle Stiffness Before It Happens

  1. 1
    Vary Your Workouts
    The best way to ensure that you give your muscles the rest they need is to alternate which muscle groups you work on each day. When you do the same exercises over and over, you'll end up burning the same group of muscle fibers over and over, and they'll start to get sore and tired easily. Always make sure you address muscle weakness as muscle imbalance can contribute to issues down the track.
  2. 2
    Use A Foam Roller
    Foam rolling is a great way to prevent muscle tightness. Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (self-massage) that allows you to work out knots in the affected area and helps increase blood flow. It helps break up scar tissue and adhesions in your muscles and helps tight muscle feel better. It's great for pre and post-workout stretching.
  3. 3
    Drink More Water
    Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to prevent muscle tightness. Water is essential for your body to function properly, and it also helps you feel more energized.Water helps to flush the byproducts of exercise from your muscles, and it helps to stave off dehydration.
  4. 4
    Sleep Earlier
    Sleep can help prevent muscle tightness by reducing inflammation. When you sleep, your body produces human growth hormones (HGH). HGH helps reduce inflammation and increase muscle mass. When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces less HGH, which can make your muscles sore.
  5. 5
    Drink Coffee
    Research has shown that a pre-workout supplement of caffeine can dramatically reduce muscle stiffness and fatigue. A study published in the Journal of Pain reveals that ingesting caffeine before working out can diminish DOMS, the pain resulting from overuse of muscles [2].

How To Relieve Neck Muscle Tightness?

Other muscles that can get tight from every day life is your neck muscles and back muscles. Sitting for an extended period throughout the day, in one position, will cause muscle tension. 

Try contracting this by trying these exercises:

Forward And Backward Tilt

The Forward and Backward Tilt exercise is a great exercise to improve posture and reduce muscle tension. Tilt your head forward, hold it for 10 seconds, and then tilt it back while holding it for 10 seconds.

Repeat this exercise 10-15 times.

Side Tilt

The Side Tilt is an excellent way to stretch out your neck and relieve tension of muscle stiffness, especially in the morning when you wake up.

In this exercise, you tuck your chin into your chest and then slowly tilt your neck to the right, then to the left. The movement stretches your neck and improves your posture.

Side Rotation

Side rotation is a great exercise to help you strengthen the side muscles in your neck as that's where the most muscle tension and pain can build up.

Simply rotate your right ear toward your right shoulder, then turn your left ear toward your left shoulder. Repeat this exercise ten times, up to three times a day.

Doctor Relieving Neck Muscle Tightness From A Womans Neck

Exercises & Stretches For Back Muscle Tightness

Bad posture is one of the most common reasons people experience tight back muscles. It's important to strengthen this area as muscle weakness can pull you into bad positions and increase muscle pain.

To help release tightness for your back, here are my suggestions: 

Upper Back Tightness

Back muscles are very susceptible to muscle pain and muscle stiffness due to poor posture and increase time sitting during long periods of the day.

The shoulder roll is a really great exercise to help with posture and upper back tightness. It's perfect for computer workers who sit at a desk all day.

To do the shoulder roll, rotate your shoulders up towards your ears and back down again in a circular motion. After five rotations, repeat in the opposite direction.

Middle Back Tightness

If you're experiencing middle back pain, you should incorporate bridging exercises into your routine. Bridging can help strengthen your core muscles and relieve back tightness.

Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Lift your hips up off the floor and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 15 times.

Lower Back Tightness

To relieve lower back pain, you need to strengthen your core. Strengthening your core will help protect your back from injury. 

My favorite core strengthening exercises are crunches, planks, and bird dogs. Crunches work your upper abs and increase your range of motion. Planks work your entire core and improve your core stability. Bird dogs work your obliques and increase spine stability.

If you suffer from lower back pain from muscle tightness, or your symptoms worsen past muscle pain, it's a good idea to work with a physical therapist and increase soft tissue treatments to keep your back health.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What happens if muscle tightness isn't relieved?

A few things could happen if muscle tightness isn't relieved. If a muscle is too tight, it can limit your range of motion and can make you more prone to injuries. Over time, too much tension in your muscles can lead to more serious issues such as chronic pain.

What causes extreme muscle tightness?

In most cases, extreme muscle tightness occurs because of muscle tears. This happens especially when you're not getting enough rest and sleep, and you're constantly pushing yourself to the limits. This can also happen if you're working out too vigorously and not warming up enough before you start exercising. I highly recommend considering some type of physical therapy if you experience stiff muscles to the point it is painful and you struggle to move normally. 

Should I work out if my muscles are still sore?

In general, you should always listen to your body and take a break if you feel sore or tired. However, if you're sore from a previous workout, it's fine to do a light workout. While it might seem counter-intuitive that you should exercise while your muscles are still sore, it's okay. The reason for this is that the soreness your muscles feel is from micro-tears in the muscle fibers. Now it's important to give those muscles time to recover, which is why you should target a different muscle group in your next workout.

Does anxiety cause muscle tightness?

Yes, anxiety can cause muscle tightness, and it may be one of the reasons why you're feeling so tense. Muscle tension is caused by the fight-or-flight response in the nervous system. When you're anxious, your body automatically prepares itself to face danger by releasing stress hormones into your bloodstream.

Is massage good for tight muscles?

Massage therapy is not only good for relaxing tight muscles, but it can also be good for your health and happiness due to how it calms the nervous system. Massages have many health benefits that go well beyond relaxation. Massages can help boost your immune system, reduce stress, alleviate pain, increase blood flow, and improve your overall health and wellbeing.

How long does it take for muscle tightness to go away?

It can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days for muscle tightness to go away after a workout. Muscle tightness is caused by microscopic tears in your muscles that happen when you exercise [3].


If you're not used to working out every day in the gym, it can be challenging to get into the habit of going when you feel tight and experience muscle pain.

However, it's important to remember that sore muscles result from your body breaking down old tissue and growing new tissue stronger than before, which is a good thing.

If you're suffering from muscle pain too often it's a good idea to consider more recovery time so you're not risking injury.

Following some basic principles outlined in this article will help you avoid muscle stiffness and recover faster.





Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website