As we look outside, its probably hard to imagine that the weather will ever improve, or that we will want to go outside again to exercise. But despite this rather intense spell of winter weather, it won’t be long before the warm temperatures will be back and exercise will be back on your minds again.
Today we are looking at stretching – myths that need to be busted, and some Dos and Don’ts to keep you moving.
Stretching Myths – BUSTED!
MYTH: You have to stretch before warming up.
False! Stretching a cold muscle can actually result in an injury which we try to avoid in the first place. Take a few minutes to warm up with a brisk walk or jog before you begin your stretching routine.
This is a great way to get the blood flowing to your muscles and it starts to prepare them for your stretches.
MYTH: Stretching will always increase your performance.
Unfortunately stretching will not help to improve in every aspect of your physical exercise. Stretching helps to increase range of motion which helps to make your muscles more efficient during exercise.
Increasing your performance also includes many other factors like preparation, diet and training. Stretching is one element that can help but by itself it isn’t going to lead to a major increase in your performance.
MYTH: Stretching just one muscle group is enough
Often the soreness that we feel in one area can be caused by injury or tightness in another. Just stretching the muscle group that you think you are working out might not be enough to prevent referred pain – like your lower back pain might be from your hip flexors being tight, rather than from not stretching your back before exercising.
MYTH: If you stretch before a workout you don’t need to do anything after.
False! It is very important to stretch after a workout to help with the recovery of the physical exercise you performed. This will help reduce any post exercise injury and help you in the recovery phase.
MYTH: Stretching will stop you from getting injured.
Stretching alone will not stop you from getting injured. Research has shown that people who stretch aren’t any less likely to get injured compared to those who don’t.
Injuries are dependent on the particular exercise performed by the individual performing them. When stretching is done correctly it helps to increase blood flow to the muscles and increase joint range of motion.
MYTH: You can’t over stretch.
False! If you stretch a tight muscle with too much intensity you risk the chance of straining/pulling it. It’s important to begin your stretches slowly and then increase once you feel comfortable.
Don’t stretch anything that’s causing too much pain. A mild discomfort is enough to help increase the muscles flexibility. Stretches should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds and repeated 2-3 times.
So now that we have busted a few myths, let’s take a more in-depth look at the topic.
Dos and Don’ts of Stretching.
- DO warm up before any form of exercise by stretching both before and after exercise. You run the risk of injuring yourself if you choose to go straight into your exercise with cold muscles.
- DO use traction when stretching to increase range of motion. This can also reduce compression and impingement of a joint. Either use a band with your hand for various upper body stretches or hook it onto your foot or ankle for lower body options.
- DO control which area of the muscle is being stretched. Having correct technique will help ensure your body is benefiting from the stretch and not being harmed by the stretch.
- DO light activity such as walking or jogging to help your muscles, tendons, and ligaments loosen before stretching. Stretching tight muscles can inhibit your ability to do full range exercises.
- DO deeps breaths whilst holding a stretch. By breathing properly, you’re allowing your heart to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles. When your muscles are delivered the oxygen and nutrients, your blood then removes lactic acid and other waste from your muscles.
- DON’T stretch into pain. Stretches are not meant to be painful. You need to feel the stretch at a mild discomfort to make a difference in the muscle fibres.
- DON’T over stretch. To get the best outcome you should stretch a particular muscle two/three times for thirty seconds at a time. Let the muscle lengthen slowly, don’t force it.
- DON’T stretch if you are unsure what you are stretching. There is no benefit in stretching a muscle if you don’t know how to do it right. Make the stretch count and research what muscle and technique should be used to get the most out of it.
- DON’T bounce during or after your stretch. This isn’t as effective as everyone thinks. In fact – this shortens muscles instead of lengthening them. Tools like exercise bands can be a great way to increase the intensity of a stretch without increasing the risk of injury.
- DON’T stretch injured muscles. It may feel good at the time, but you may be making the damage worse without even realising it.