Interestingly, it is often experienced lifters who tend to skip or rush their warmup and stretch in favor of heavy lifts. But how does that work long – term? According to research stretching decreases post-workout muscle soreness significantly and helps reduce the risk of injuries.
One study points out to static stretching being the most beneficial. Static stretching means you hold a certain stretch for 15-30 seconds without moving. There are however many people who do realize how important stretching is but don’t necessarily reap the benefits we’ve discussed above due to some common stretching mistakes.
As a stretching instructor, this is the one I see most. My clients go down into a deep stretch and bounce up and down at the bottom. At this point you send mixed messages to the brain: ‘should i stretch or contract the muscle’? Consider what happens when you make a rapid movement such as slipping or tripping. Yes, your muscles rapidly contract to prevent you from falling. So when you bounce during stretching you cause a similar reaction. As result, you will not only miss out on the benefits of stretching but you can injure yourself trying to stretched a contracted muscle. Instead go as deep into the stretch as you can and hold the position up to 30 seconds.
Going too fast is another error I see among my clients. Effective stretching requires patience, endurance and focus. Holding a stretch for as little as 5 seconds gives you little benefits, so remember to hold one position for at least 15-30 seconds. Some fitness gurus suggest even up to 10 minutes in one position to increase flexibility and mobility. Be patient and focus on your body and breath.
Mistaking mobility or hypermobility with flexibility is another phenomenon which can harm your stretching routine. Flexibility refers to the elasticity of our muscles and mobility is the range of motion within the joints including ligaments. Plainly speaking if you move your shoulder joint in front of you when you are trying to stretch your delts the muscle insertions are probably at a similar distance to the usual, so you aren’t stretching the muscle. In fact often hypermobile joints may be surrounded by tight muscles. To fix this, keep your joint in place and pull the muscle insertions as far apart as you can. For example, in an overhead tricep stretch, dont move your shoulder back but focus on pulling the elbow away from the shoulder, elongating (stretching) the tricep.
In stretching, it’s very important to push yourself gradually. Don’t go all the way without warmup but rather reach into a stretch and with each breath try to go deeper. Again, don’t bounce.
Pushing past the pain is never a good idea. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. If you are in pain, stop. But don’t confuse effort and tension with pain. Deep stretching is rarely easy or pleasant. Get sweaty.