I often see exercise enthusiasts and athletes performing stretches incorrectly. So, obviously they don’t get the desired results. Moreover, doing stretches in wrong manner is risky, and I am sure you would not like to get injured. It came to my mind why not write a post on essentials of stretching for flexibility and its dos and don’ts.
Stretching makes you more flexible & lowers the risk of injury. It also boosts your energy level and blood circulation. Read on here for stretching Dos & Don’ts.
Although you can stretch anytime, anywhere, but you need to ensure that you use proper technique. Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.
10 Tips To Do Stretching In Safe And Effective Manner
Here are 10 suggestions to keep in mind when you start a stretching routine with flexibility in focus. My foremost concern here is to make sure that you do stretching safely and effectively.
1. Don’t Do Stretching As A Warm-up:
(i) You are likely to hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. Warm up first with light walking, jogging or cycling at low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes before you start stretching.
(ii) The right time to stretch is after completing your exercise session.
(iii) Most of the recent studies have reported that static stretching right before playing a sport or exercising can undermine performance. So, in view of these studies remember to skip stretching before an intense activity such as sprinting.
2. Perform Dynamic Movements As Warm-up Before Exercising:
The right way to warm up before you exercise or sport is to do low-intensity, dynamic movement that is similar to the main type of exercise or sport that you are going to do, and then gradually increasing the speed and intensity as you warm up.
3. Maintain Symmetry:
Each individual’s genetics for flexibility are a bit different. Rather than aiming for the flexibility like that of a dancer or gymnast, strive for having equal flexibility side to side (especially if you have a history of a previous injury). Flexibility that is not equal on both sides may be a serious risk factor for injury, especially in old age.
Useful Related Post: Stretching For Flexibility Guidelines And Tips
4. Emphasize On Major Muscle Groups: Focus on stretches involving major muscle groups, namely, your thighs, calves, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders. Make sure that you stretch both sides. Also stretch muscles and joints that you use routinely .
5. Don’t Bounce: Stretch in a smooth movement, without bouncing. In general, bouncing increases chance of injury and does little to improve flexibility. Rather, it can cause muscle to tighten up significantly.
6. Hold Your Stretch: Breathe normally and hold each stretch position for about 15-30 seconds. In problem areas, you may need to hold for a shorter duration, and then increasing the holding period gradually up to 15-30 seconds.
7. Don’t Overstretch: Make sure to stretch a muscle only up to a comfortable point. While stretching statically, you should not stretch to the point of pain. This can hurt your muscle such as tearing a muscle, spraining a ligament, or dislocating a joint.
8. Focus On Activity Specific Stretches: Some evidence suggests that it helps to perform stretches engaging the muscles that are used most in your sport, activity or problem area. For example if you play soccer, you are more vulnerable to hamstring strains, so focus on stretches that involve your hamstrings.
9. Keep Up With Your Stretching: You need to have patience and be consistent. Stretch regularly, at least 2-3 times a week to get the full benefits of stretching. The more times in a week you do, the more you will be benefitted. Skipping regular stretching will lead to losing the potential benefits. For example if stretching helped you increase your range of motion, your range of motion may decrease again if you discontinue stretching.
10. Include Some Movement Into Your Stretching: Gentle movements like those in tai chi or yoga can make you more flexible in specific movements. These types of exercises also help reduce chances of falls in seniors.
Important Note: If you have not been doing stretching for long or starting it for the first time, you need to approach it with caution. In case you have a chronic condition or an injury, don’t start it without consulting a professional. The therapist will adjust stretching techniques and design a specific stretching plan for you according to your condition. For instance if you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may cause further harm. So if you have any health concern, make sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the most appropriate way to stretch.