6 Stretching Mistakes People Make When Exercising
Stretching is a popular activity used in tandem with fitness training. When done properly, it helps to prepare the body for exercise by loosening tight muscles and moving joints through their full range of motion. In addition, stretching can help you recover from your workout by increasing delayed muscle onset soreness.
While stretching offers many benefits, it won’t be beneficial when done improperly. In fact, poorly executed stretches may cause injuries and inflexibility. To avoid this happening to you, read about these 6 stretching mistakes that people make when exercising.
1) Over Stretching
Overstretching is a common fitness-training error that can manifest in one of two ways. When you hold a stretch for too long or use too much force, this puts undue stress on the muscles in use. The recommended longest time to hold a stretch is 60-seconds. Going beyond that will significantly reduce the power of the target muscles.
Stretching should not be painful, but you will feel tightness when lengthening the muscles involved to their full range of motion. If you feel pain when stretching, this is a surefire sign of overstretching with too much force. Stretching too hard can tear muscle ligaments and tendons.
Luckily, you can avoid strain injuries by adjusting your joints to regulate the intensity of a stretching pose.
2) Bouncing Around During Static Stretches
You may be tempted to bounce around after positioning your body into a stretching pose as a way of pushing yourself further, but that will do more harm than good. Much like overstretching, bouncing around when performing static stretches increases the risk of tearing the muscle and tendon.
For static stretches, the best practice is to gradually elongate the target muscles and hold the stretching pose for 30-60 seconds. Adopting this approach will go a long way in ensuring that you don’t suffer strain injuries while stretching.
3) Maintaining Incorrect Form
It is imperative that you always maintain good form when performing physical workouts, and stretching is no exception. Getting into the wrong position when stretching leads to two negative outcomes. Either this will put strain on supportive muscles and joints, or you will not feel the stretch.
Therefore, ensure to learn and implement proper form for various stretching workouts that you incorporate into your fitness routine. This will prevent unnecessary injuries and ensure that you won’t miss the muscle you intend to stretch.
4) Stretching Injured Muscles
Sometimes injured individuals decide to stretch even after suffering a torn ligament or tendon. This may be out of fear that the injured joint or muscle may become weak if not used for a prolonged period.
However, rest is important for recovery. If you stretch an injured muscle, you risk causing further damage. The recommended practice is to introduce low-intensity stretching gradually only after the fitness injury has healed.
5) Stretching Without Warming Up
People who are inexperienced in fitness training think that stretching is the main warm up routine. This misconception leads to the common mistake of stretching cold muscles, which increases the risk of suffering a tear or rip.
Before stretching, you need to warm up the muscles through a light cardio workout that will get your core temperature and heart rate up. This increases your muscles’ range of motion and makes them more limber and better prepared to handle intense physical exertion.
6) Using the Wrong Method of Stretching
Stretching exercises fall in one of two categories: static and dynamic. Static stretching (which involves holding a stretch at a standstill position for a brief period) is often done after workouts. It is calming and offers a good way to cool down and catch your breath after exercise.
On the other hand, dynamic stretches (which rely on motion to lengthen muscles) are best practiced before a workout since they help to increase core temperature and heart rate.
Many beginners confuse these two stretching techniques. If you fall into this trap as well, you will make the blunder of implementing the wrong type of stretching. This in turn can compromise your performance in sports and fitness training.
In conclusion, always remember that stretching is a very important component of fitness training. It will help you to improve performance when implemented into your warm up and cool down routine.
However, you must stretch with care. By avoiding the pitfalls described above, you will be well on your way to making the most out of stretching exercises.
Can Stretching Prevent Injury?
Nothing is so certain that doing it will guarantee prevention of an injury; stretching is no different. However, that is not to say that stretching is worthless; quite the contrary!
While stretching will not prevent an injury, doing it as part of a warm-up program does reduce the risk of an injury by promoting increased blood flow to the muscles, and an increase in range of motion and flexibility in the joints stretched. And that is the true value of stretching.
Pre-workout warm-up program
There are five basic types of stretching. In the warm-up phase, dynamic stretching is the best one to use prior to a workout. Start a warm-up program by doing a few minutes of aerobic activity using muscles you will be using during your workout. That warms up your core and increases your breathing rate. Don’t be surprised if you even sweat a little.
Now you are ready for some dynamic stretching. This type of stretching focuses on moving the muscles that you will use during your workout through their range of motion in a fluid movement. In other words, the muscles are not held in their fully stretched position for any length of time other than for 2 or 3 seconds.
Working them through their range of motion increases blood flow to the muscles and tendons, so that the shock of working out is reduced.
Post-workout cool-down program
After exercising, your heart, blood flow and breathing rate are still at a high level. Cooling down, helps all of them come down slowly to their pre-warm-up levels. Without a cool-down, some people may experience dizziness or even nausea after stopping their workout.
Start your cool-down by doing some gentle exercise for 3 to 5 minutes using the same muscles you worked during your workout. For example, if your workout was running, then do some jogging or even walking as a cool-down exercise.
Next do 5 to 10 minutes of static stretching of the muscles used by holding each of them in their extended position for 30 to 60 seconds each. Do not bounce them. Gently stretch and hold, then release.
During a workout, muscles suffer small micro tears and create waste like lactic acid. While circulating blood flow takes this waste out of the muscles while exercising, abruptly stopping creates a build-up with nowhere to go. This built-up causes swelling in the micro tears and the result is soreness in the muscles worked a day or two after, known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) or post exercise soreness.
By doing a cool-down exercise, some of that waste gets carried out of the muscle which in turn reduces micro tear swelling. Because the activity level is reduced, very little additional wastes or micro tears are being generated which reduces muscle soreness.
Stretching is not a preventative measure against injury, but it is an effective strategy to reduce the risk when associated with a warm-up and cool-down programs as part of an overall workout routine.