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5 Stretches for Tight 'Stuck Behind the Wheel' Muscles

woman driving with muscle cramp
Gina Harney - Blogs
By Gina HarneyCertified personal trainerSeptember 26, 2019
From the WebMD Archives

If you see me out and about hobbling, I haven’t done anything super strenuous – I’ve just been driving my kids around for hours.

We’re officially back in school, and while it’s so wonderful to be back in a routine and the girls are happy to see their friends again, I forgot how many hours are spent in a car between carpool line and driving to dance team, gymnastics, and swim. 

Of course, I’m happy to be able to drive the girls around and spend the extra time with them, but it has served as a reminder to stretch the muscles that become tight and shortened from so many hours in the car!

Similar to sitting in a desk for many hours per day, driving for long periods of time shortens our hip flexor muscles. It can make them extremely tight and, in turn, can make our glutes even weaker. Lazy bums are extremely common (read more about this here), so it’s important to focus on lengthening our hip flexors and strengthening our glutes.

It’s also difficult to have awesome alignment while you’re behind the wheel. So many times, I’ll tune in and realize that my core is completely asleep, my neck is jutting forward, my shoulders have become earrings, and I’m gripping the wheel with both hands. I take a deep breath, exhale and pull in my core, sit up a little straighter, relax my shoulders, pull my head back, and take the tension out of my hands (while still maintaining control of the wheel, of course).

If you have tight “stuck behind the wheel" muscles, try these easy stretches.

  • Chest opener. When we’re driving, our arms are forward and our chest muscles become short and tight, so it’s important to stretch out your chest muscles. To do this chest opener, stand next to a door and make a “goal post” with one of your arms. (A 90-degree bend with the palm up and facing forward, like you’re going to give someone a high five.) Place your palm on the door frame and slowly start to walk forward, until you feel the stretch in your chest. Make sure to breathe and keep your shoulders down. For more of a stretch, turn slightly away from the arm that’s raised. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Runner’s lunge.This one is awesome for tight hip flexors. Start off on both knees with your hips lifted. Step one foot forward about 2 feet so your front knee is stacked over your front ankle. Carefully press your hips forward, feeling the stretch in the opposite hip flexor. Repeat on both sides.
  • Hand stretches! We often forget to stretch our wrists and hands. Our wrists are usually in a flexed position while we’re driving and we want to maintain full range of motion around the joint. Take some time to make circles with your wrists in each direction. Then, spread your fingertips as wide as you can, and tap each finger to your thumb. Do this about 3-5 times per finger.
  • Chest opener into forward fold. Start standing with your knees slightly bent, and feet directly under your hips. Place your hands on your low back for support, with your elbows slightly angled back. Inhale and press your hips and chest forward, dropping your shoulders and gazing up towards the ceiling. As your exhale, hinge forward from your hips, pressing your hips back. This is an excellent hamstring stretch. Repeat, with your breath, for 3-5 rounds, taking your time to move slowly.
  • Spinal rotation. In order to keep our spine flexible, we need to move is dynamically in exercises that make sense for everyday life. When we’re driving, our spine is completely still, so it’s important to counteract the stillness with some gentle twists and breath work. Start seated with your feet crossed. Take your right hand and place it on your left knee, with your left hand behind your back on the floor. Gently exhale and twist towards the left, keeping your spine tall as you rotate. (Avoid sinking down.) Inhale, and exhale to twist a little deeper. Repeat on the opposite side.
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About the Author
Gina Harney

Gina Harney is the blogger behind the healthy lifestyle brand, The Fitnessista, which reaches millions of viewers all over the world. She’s been featured on Greatist, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Shape, Fitness Magazine, and Well + Good. She’s the author of “HIIT It!” and the voice behind the Healthy In Real Life podcast. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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