Stretching is a valuable, worthwhile practice for anyone who is into staying fit. Stretching aids muscle recovery, increases flexibility, and improves performance. However, like anything else, stretching can be harmful if you do it the wrong way. Sadly, many people do stretch incorrectly. Here, Winnipeg fitness trainer Gabriel Patterson explains six common stretching mistakes to avoid.
- Stretching an injured muscle
While stretching does help muscle recovery, that’s only the case if a muscle is tired and strained, rather than injured. Besides usually being painful, stretching an injured muscle slows healing. Stretching can even worsen a muscle tear. Instead, injured muscles require rest to recover — and a visit to a medical professional if the problem lingers.
- Not warming up
Proper stretching requires warm, pliable muscles. Going into a stretch without a warm-up dramatically increases injury risk. Raising your heart rate will supply the muscles and tendons with the blood flow they need for healthy stretching. A little light aerobic exertion is all that is required. Try running in place, performing jumping jacks, or any other sort of basic cardio exercise.
The proper way to work into a stretch is with gradual, steady, slow movements. Many people, however, try to bounce back and forth to get fully extended. Bouncing is both counterproductive and dangerous. Bouncing is counterproductive because it causes the muscle to tighten rather than relax, and dangerous because it can cause the tissue to tear.
- Stretching too deeply
Too much of a good thing is almost always bad. Pushing too deeply into a stretch will make the muscle tear. Again, the rule is to ease slowly into the stretch, avoiding sudden or forceful movements. While a little discomfort in a stretch is a good sign, obvious pain means you need to pull back. Pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong — so heed the message.
- Stretching incorrectly
Just as with any exercise, every kind of stretch has a proper form. Besides raising injury risk, doing a stretch the wrong way means you probably aren’t getting much benefit. A reliable indicator of bad form is that you don’t feel the stretch in the targeted muscle. If you aren’t sure how to correctly perform a particular stretch, look up a guide online.
- Not stretching regularly
Some people only stretch when a particular muscle is bothering them. However, stretching is as much about preventing problems as it is treating them. Avoiding a problem before it even arises is always best. A regular habit of stretching increases flexibility, helping to stave off stiffness, discomfort, and severe injury. Aim to stretch every major muscle group at least every few days.
Gabriel Patterson consistently assures his clients that stretching is an invaluable tool in your fitness arsenal. It is perhaps the most natural and effective means of recovering from an intense workout. Since stretching can be so valuable, you must do it the right way. Get the most from your stretching sessions and steer clear of injury by avoiding the common stretching mistakes that plague so many.