Are you doing stretches that benefit your body before you work out? Are you stretching at all?
When it comes to working out, stretching often takes a back seat to what we really want to do. Especially for those trying to juggle work, a family, and the gym, stretching can seem like it is wasting your precious time. Even athletes find it too time consuming, a waste of time, or boring. The common thought is: why stretch when you can you just hop right on your surfboard and start paddling? However, failure to stretch and failure to do so properly can lead to injury. It is important to adhere to the four main principles of stretching: avoiding pain, stretching slowly, stretching the right muscle, and working only the necessary joints and muscles. Following these rules will lead to a safer and more effective stretch.
Stretching should never cause more pain. Stretching will be uncomfortable, especially if the muscles are really taut. However, one must be able to distinguish between the burn of stretching and pain that will lead to an injury. Stretching should be gentle. If you force a stretch, your body‘s defense mechanisms will kick in, thinking something dangerous might be going on. As a result, your muscles detect pain and protect themselves by contracting. This is exactly the opposite effect of what you want to achieve when stretching.
Stretching the muscles too fast could possibly lead to injury. Once again, if the body thinks that the muscle is about the get torn or injured, it will protect itself by contracting. Ease into the stretch slowly and let your body realize what you are doing. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds.
Stretch the Correct Muscle
Proper technique is essential when stretching. Movement during a stretch that goes a couple of degrees in the wrong direction can mean the difference between stretching the muscle and pulling on the joint capsule or somehow harming the body.
Avoid Affecting Other Muscles and Joints
Stretching that is careless or poorly done could negatively affect other muscles and joints, resulting in further injury. This common mistake is why some people consider stretching worthless or painful. Don’t try to do a stretch that your muscles are not flexible enough for. You can end up pulling a muscle or causing a different muscle injury by trying to perform a hard stretch.
Stretching correctly takes practice and learning technique. Make sure that your angles are all correct while you are stretching and that you are balanced and not leaning or twisting your body. While you are stretching remember to try and move the area that you are stretching as little as possible so that it gets the best stretch possible. Often stretching will have a “good burn” sensation, it’s important not to push the stretch too far but also make sure that you don’t stop the stretch too soon because it is uncomfortable.
Stretch anytime, anywhere, several times a day. Make it a part of your daily habits. Most people feel more comfortable exercising when their bodies are warm. I agree that it is a good idea to stretch after a warm up. However, stretching a cold muscle will not necessarily lead to injury if you follow these guidelines. Remember, improper technique can lead to more harm than good.
At OSR we want you to reach your exercise and health goals, and that starts with a good stretch!
Please contact us if you have any questions!
Berg, Kristian (2011). Prescriptive Stretching: Eliminate pain and prevent injury.