Stretching improves muscle flexibility, helping you avoid hamstring strain and reducing the risk of different types of injuries. However, proper execution is crucial. Small mistakes, overlooked blunders, and incorrect techniques can work against your muscles, defeating the purpose of stretching.
Don’t fear, though—we’ve compiled a general list of the five biggest stretching mistakes people make. Here’s what you need to keep in mind to avoid risking an injury or hindering your performance goals.
Assuming Stretching Is Warming Up
We know you’re feeling guilty already having read this. Many fitness enthusiasts usually stretch to warm up their muscles when preparing for workouts. But research shows that stretching can actually hurt the fibers of your cold muscles.
You need to change your approach and start warming up for 5 to 10 minutes before entering the stretching session. Warm-up exercises like light walking and jogging can increase blood flow to the muscles, making them more flexible for safe stretching.
Not Holding Stretches Long Enough
Holding stretches makes your muscles relax and elongate. Ideally, you should hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds. However, you may feel the need to release a stretch immediately for certain muscles groups. But don’t give up on them. Instead, spend more time on such areas, holding each stretch for around 45 to 60 seconds.
Bouncing While Stretching
Doing bouncy stretches is one of the biggest stretching mistakes people make. Unlike static and dynamic stretches, bouncing stretches use forceful movements. They can cause muscle strains or pulls, affecting your overall performance. When you do them regularly, bouncy or ballistic stretches can damage the soft tissues around joints. Over time, this often leads to reduced flexibility and movement.
Aiming for Pain When Stretching
Many of us believe that feeling pain when coming out of a stretch means the exercise is working. But the truth is that if you feel pain, then that’s a sign you have overworked your muscles. Rewarding stretches are the ones that make you feel the tension in the stretched muscles.
This is when it pays to know your flexibility limits by intuitively connecting to your body. And if you feel pain every time you stretch, even after exercising caution, you may have strained muscles. It’s best to consider consulting your physical therapist or doctor in this situation.
Failing To Stretch Regularly
You probably don’t expect to improve and maintain your flexibility and range of motion with a few sessions of stretching. To reap the benefits, you need to stay committed to the process. Stretching at least two to three times a week is enough to keep you on the right path.
While stretching muscles and joints that you use routinely is good, the way you go about it can make all the difference. Whenever you’re in doubt, you can check in with a fitness expert or an experienced friend to help you stretch safely and effectively.