Stretching is usually something that not a lot of people pay attention to. While most people do stretch before they exercise, they are not aware of the differences between good and bad stretches, or that doing it wrong can result in dangerous stretches that can cause injury.
But first, we need to talk about what stretching does to the body, and why it is so important when it comes to fitness and health.
Why Should We Stretch?
Stretching is a fundamental part of physical fitness. It helps keep your body limber and flexible, and also prevents injury.
It does this by strengthening your muscles and making sure that your joints and ligaments are able to move to their fullest ability.
You have probably noticed that as you grow older, certain types of movements are much harder to do compared to when you were just a kid. Exercises such as reaching your toes, or bending backward can now seem difficult, and sometimes painful.
This is because as we grow older, we lose elasticity in our muscles and connective tissues. This means that without stretching and exercise, we lose mobility and flexibility in our bodies, along with some range of motion.
The good thing is that even if you are not as flexible as when you were young, doing some stretches and exercising can help bring back some of that flexibility. Not only will you feel stronger and much more limber, you will notice that there’s less pain when you move around, and certain tasks that require you to stretch are much easier to do.
10 Bad Stretches and Habits You Need to Avoid
Just like any other form of exercise, there are good stretches and bad stretches. Forcing yourself to stretch can even turn normal stretches into dangerous ones that can cause injury.
So it is important to take note of these bad stretches and dangerous stretches early on. This helps you develop good habits and form, and lowers the risk of injury.
Here are some bad stretches and habits that you need to avoid:
Stretching when you are injured
If you suffer an injury, whether it is from doing a sport or from exercising, you will need to rest. Try not to think about the missed days working out and just focus first on recovery before you do any strenuous activity.
Forcing yourself to stretch or exercise when injured can make things worse, and can even lead to a permanent injury. Do not listen to people who say that stretching your injured muscle helps it heal, that is just bad advice.
Doing it even if it is painful
One common motto that you hear when it comes to exercise is “No pain, no gain.” After all, exercise is hard work, and sometimes you just need to push through to achieve your fitness goals.
But the reality is that whenever you feel any sort of pain or serious discomfort when you exercise, you are doing it wrong.
In particular, stretches should not feel painful. You may feel some strain or difficulty when stretching, and that is alright. But if it starts to feel painful, you need to stop. You may seriously hurt yourself if you push your muscles.
Having poor posture or form
Just like other exercises, you need to have proper posture and form when you are stretching. If you start out stretching with poor form, you are doing bad stretches and it is not a good habit to develop.
It would be a good idea to learn from fitness trainers or a friend who knows what they are doing. This helps lower the risk of injury and also improves the quality of your stretching.
Holding your breath when holding a stretch
This is a common mistake that a lot of people make when they start stretching. Holding your breath makes stretching more difficult since it makes your muscles tense and more resistant.
Try to breathe normally when stretching and you will notice a world of difference.
Not doing warm-up exercises beforehand
Before you start stretching, it would be a good idea to do some warm-up exercises. Warm-up exercises help to get your body ready for exercise, as it helps loosen your muscles and joints and gets the blood flowing in your body.
This would make it easier to stretch, and also helps prevent injury.
‘Bouncing’ when stretching
Another common mistake is ‘bouncing’ when holding a stretch. If you keep on doing this, it may lead to a pulled muscle.
Instead of bouncing, try to move slowly into the stretch. There is no need to rush things as your goal here is to stretch your muscles to make them more flexible.
Not doing it consistently
The key to stretching is to do it properly and to do it often. You need to be consistent and try to stretch for a few minutes each day to help keep your body limber and flexible.
Doing the wrong type of stretching
There are two main types of stretches, dynamic and static stretches. And depending on what physical activities you are doing, you will need to prioritize one over the other.
Dynamic stretches help you stretch through your full range of motion, which means you don’t hold a stretch when doing dynamic stretches.
On the other hand, static stretches are the type of stretches where you need to hold your stretch.
In particular, static stretches are great for cool-down exercises while dynamic stretches work well for warm-up exercises.
Stretching too fast
Stretching is not a race, and it is not like other exercises where doing it faster makes it more intense. When it comes to stretching, you will need to do things gradually and focus on the stretching aspect of it.
Doing your stretches too fast is not only ineffective but can also lead to injury.
When you first start stretching, you may probably not be able to move through your full range of motion just yet. And that is totally fine!
Even if you are physically fit, if you force yourself to overstretch, you may hurt yourself. Even basic stretches can turn into dangerous stretches as a result.
It can also lead to what’s called hypermobility, which means a joint gets too loose and unstable.
When it comes to building your flexibility, slow and easy is the way to go. Jumping into it when your body and muscles have yet to adjust may lead to serious injury. Be sure to do things in moderation, and don’t overdo your stretches.
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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.