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Stretching is a fundamental component of maintaining wellness. While numerous people may have a love-hate relationship with it, stretching gives numerous benefits to our health. It increases flexibility, improves range of motion, enhances performance in workouts, as well as boosts physical activity levels.
A good stretch can also increase blood flow to the muscles and can even help relieve stress. Many of us stretch here and there whenever we can, however, not a lot are aware that we may be stretching incorrectly. Stretching with an improper technique may not only lead to injury but also you aren’t fully optimizing your workouts. Here are some of the most common stretching mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Static Stretching vs Dynamic Stretching
Before we get to the common mistakes people make when it comes to stretching, it’s important to learn about the two types of stretches. Knowing the difference between dynamic stretching and static stretching can help you avoid making stretching mistakes as well.
When the word “stretch” is mentioned, most individuals think of holding a stretch pose for a couple of seconds. That type of stretching is referred to as static stretching. You lengthen a specific muscle until you feel tension, and hold that position for a couple of seconds. These stretches are best done after a workout to help relieve muscle fatigue.
This type of stretch involves moving through a full range of motion without holding an end position. Stretches of the dynamic kind are moving stretches that mimic movements to be performed during a workout. This type of stretch is ideal to incorporate into a pre-workout warm-up routine as it can prepare the joints and muscles for the exercise ahead.
How Do You Know If You’re Stretching Wrong?
One of the biggest indicators to know if you’re stretching the wrong way is if you feel pain during a stretch. Encountering resistance or slight discomfort during a stretch is normal but it should never be at the point of being painful. If your muscles start to hurt during a stretch, it is best to ease up and stop immediately to avoid injury.
What is the Biggest Contradiction for Stretching?
Doing a warm-up before a workout is necessary to awaken the muscles. However, most people have the notion that stretching is enough of a warm-up. Contrary to popular belief, doing static stretches as a warm-up does more harm to your body than good. Certainly, stretching can help in preventing injuries but doing the wrong type of stretch before a workout can result in injuries.
If you stretch cold muscles, you could heighten your risk of injury and end up with a pulled muscle. Instead of a static stretch, it’s best to have a dynamic stretch routine that can increase your body temperature, warm up your muscles, and increase blood flow.
What Should You Not Do While Stretching?
Knowing the proper technique when it comes to stretching can help boost flexibility and prevent injuries. Here are things that you should avoid while stretching.
Not Warming Up
It bears repeating: stretching is not a form of warmup. If you try to go into a deep stretch without preparing or warming up your muscles, you could end up with an injury instead. A few minutes of light cardio or dynamic exercise can get your muscles warm enough for a safe stretch. Try jumping jacks, walking for a few minutes, or jogging in place before you begin your stretching routine or workout.
Holding Your Breath While Stretching
This one is a really common error that people make. Most people aren’t aware that conscious breathing makes stretching more effective. Many individuals unintentionally hold their breath while stretching. Doing so can cause the muscles to become tense and resistant.
Additionally, breathing can also promote blood flow and deliver oxygen to the muscles. Remember to do slow breaths through the nose while stretching to help your muscles relax and make them more receptive to the stretch.
Stretching Injured Muscles
Injured muscles should not be stretched; they require ample rest and recovery time. If you are tempted to power through and stretch the injured muscle anyway, you’re making a big mistake. Give your injured muscles time to heal before making them work hard again. Additionally, if you notice pain, redness, inflammation, or swelling, it’s best to consult a medical professional.
Bouncing While Stretching
Also known as ballistic stretching, it is highly advised to never bounce while holding a stretch. The ballistic motion caused by bouncing can trigger the muscle to tighten and protect itself. It can also cause your muscles and tendons to tear, defeating the purpose of stretching.
If your legs feel heavy and achy, it may be a sign that they need to be stretched. However, if you find yourself sweating or breathing hard once you begin stretching, it’s a sign from your body that you are overstretching your muscles. This could result in muscle strain and injuries. Always remember to stay in your natural range of motion and do not stretch beyond your comfort level.
Forgetting Important Body Parts
It may be tempting to only stretch parts of the body that your workout will emphasize but that isn’t something that you should do. You should stretch all major muscle groups of the body regularly for a more balanced effect.
What Are 5 Stretching Rules?
No matter your fitness level, you can reap the full benefits of stretching by following five simple rules.
Be Aware of Your Form
This one is a no-brainer. Every stretch has the right way to perform, and it’s essential that you adhere to the ideal alignment at all times. Ensuring that you have the proper technique also means that your position is stable, lowering your chances of muscle injury.
Stretch As Often As You Workout
If you’re working out three to four times a week, you should also be stretching at least three to four times a week. A fitness routine should always be balanced, which is why it’s recommended to pair your workouts with a stretching routine. Moreover, stretching often also helps maintain flexibility and mobility in your joints and muscles.
Hold the Pose
Holding a stretch long can help bring improvement and change in flexibility. Each stretch should be about 20 to 40 seconds to give your body enough time to adapt. This time frame is also enough to allow your brain to send a signal to your muscles to relax and elongate. Keep in mind that you should avoid stretching for more than 40 seconds.
Stop When It Gets Painful
When you stretch a muscle group, it’s common to encounter slight tension and resistance. You should only be stretching your body to the point of mild tension. If you experience sudden, intense pain, listen to your body and stop.
Start Slowly and Gently
Stretches, especially static ones, should be slow and gentle to relax the muscles and increase blood circulation. Starting with slow, gradual movements and easing into the motion can help you in the long run.
Stretching can help increase flexibility and lower your risk of injury. Adding it to your daily routine also helps you move with ease, aids in reducing your chronic pain, and can help you relax as well. By knowing the common stretching mistakes and correcting them, you can avoid injuries and optimize your workouts.
If you feel any pain or great discomfort while stretching, it’s best to stop and seek the advice of a physical therapist.