7 Stretching Mistakes You May Be Making
You already know that stretching is important. Keeping your muscles flexible improves mobility, which is one of the key components of fitness. And if you don’t stretch, the muscles can shorten and become tight, which can limit your range of motion and put you at risk for joint pain or a pulled muscle.
Stretching also helps you reduce the risk of injury and maintain proper range of motion.
But stretching is only beneficial if it’s done correctly. There are a few common stretching mistakes that can lead to injury and inflexibility — the opposite of the results you’re looking for. Here are 8 stretching mistakes to avoid so you can improve your flexibility and your workouts.
1. You’re Doing the Wrong Type of Stretching
When you hear the words “warm-up stretch,” you may be picturing the static stretches (like toe touches and sit-and-reach stretches). But movement-based stretching is a better way to kick off your workout (dynamic stretching). This type of stretching enhances muscle activation and prepares muscles to be powerful through a full range of motion. Dynamic stretches include lunges, trunk rotations, leg swings, and jumping rope.
For the post-exercise “cooldown” period, you can focus on static stretching to relax the muscles and release tension. The dynamic one excites muscles while the other calms them down.
2. You’re Bouncing While Stretching
Ballistic stretching is when an individual uses momentum from bouncing to force a muscle to stretch past its normal range. But instead of loosening the muscle, this type of rapid stretching movement can actually cause the muscles to tighten — a contraction known as the myotatic reflex or “stretch reflex.” This can lead to injuries like muscle or tendon tears, Thieme says.
3. You’re Stretching Injured Muscles
Muscle strains typically happen when a muscle is stretched beyond its limit, so stretching it further can aggravate the injury.
4. You’re Overstretching
While some discomfort is to be expected, you should never be in pain while stretching.
Overstretching can lead to hypermobility. It is important to know your limits when you’re stretching, and don’t force yourself to go beyond them.
- You’re Not Stretching Consistently
Ideally, you should be stretching your major muscle groups at least 2 to 3 times each week — and be consistent about it.
6. You’re Speeding Through Your Stretches
You need to aim for at least 30 seconds during each static stretch and at least 60 seconds for dynamic stretch.
- You’re Ignoring Your Breathing
Deep breathing can help relax tense muscles, and when paired with stretching, can allow for an even deeper stretch without increasing the risk of injury and can enhance the therapeutic effect.
How to do it properly?
Breathe by slowly inhaling through the nose, hold for a moment, then release the breath through either the mouth or nose, keeping the diaphragm and abdomen soft and relaxed.