Stretching can help prevent injuries, reduce muscle tension, and improve flexibility. But it’s crucial to practice proper stretching techniques or you risk doing more harm than good.
Your stretching routine should be customized according to the type of exercise you enjoy and your specific physical strengths and weaknesses (for example, if you’re prone to back pain). Certain workouts tend to tighten the muscles more than others, so make sure you’re familiar with the muscles you have to stretch so you can get through your workout without injury.
5 tips for stretching properly and safely
1. Warm up before stretching
- It is important to warm up before you stretch so that your muscle fibers don’t tear. The warmer the muscles, the looser they are.
- When your muscles are loose, you can stretch further and find more release in the position because your muscles are not busy trying to warm up.
2. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds
- It takes time for your muscle tissues to lengthen safely.
- If you have trouble remembering to hold your stretch, long enough, wear a watch or keep your eye on a clock.
- Keep breathing as you hold the stretch.
3. Be gentle and slow
- Don’t rush the process. Stretch gradually and carefully. You should only feel slight discomfort in the muscle, not sharp pain.
- As you hold a stretch, you may be able to lean into the stretch a bit more.
- Don’t bounce while stretching, as this can cause microtears in your muscle fibers.
4. Consult a professional
- When it comes to stretching, you want to make sure that you are doing what is right for your body.
- You can try stretching with the help of a trainer and learn what type of stretch you should do and how to do it correctly.
5. Stretch regularly
- To see long-lasting results, you need to do stretching daily, repeating each stretch a few times.
- Even if it is only five minutes a day, a little will go a long way in terms of maintaining flexibility.
What is the difference between dynamic and static stretching?
It is important to understand the types of stretches to avoid injuries. During any stretching routine, be sure to engage your abdominal muscles to protect your back.
- Active movement that increases range of motion.
- Enhances performance and properly warms up your body for a workout.
- Best to do before your workout or sports activity, since these controlled movements prepare the muscles and other soft tissues by increasing muscle temperature and decreasing stiffness.
- Examples include:
- Performed in a stationary position where a muscle is held in one position.
- Recommended to do when the muscles are already warm.
- Involves moving the muscle to the extent of its range of motion.
- Best to do after a workout or sports activity or as part of your stretching maintenance routine, because doing it beforehand can limit your muscles’ ability to react quickly.
- Examples include
- Hamstring stretch: With your back flat and knee straight (not locked), extend your leg and lean forward to feel the stretch in the back of the leg.
- Quadriceps stretch: Holding your ankle, pull your leg back toward your butt to stretch the front of the thigh.
- Posterior capsule stretch: Holding one arm just above the elbow, pull it to the other side (e.g., hold your left arm with your right hand and pull to the right) across the body to stretch the shoulder.
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What to avoid when stretching
- If you have health conditions such as osteoporosis or herniated discs, talk to your doctor regarding proper stretching techniques.
- Avoid stretching an injured area or a part of the body that has been sprained recently.
- Never do ballistic stretching on your own. This type of stretching is often performed by athletes as part of their warm-up routine. This is best done under the guidance of a coach or qualified exercise professional.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
How to Stretch: https://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_5.html
Your Guide to Stretching & Flexibility: https://hr.umich.edu/sites/default/files/mh-stretching-booklet.pdf
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