We all know that stretching is an important part of any athlete’s workout. Whether you’re a recreational runner, a marathon pro or a heavyweight champion – stretching is the bread surrounding your exercise sandwich. However, doing the wrong stretches – or the ‘right’ stretches at the wrong times – could leave you more susceptible to injury.
Read on for the common mistakes that could be hurting your workout:
Regardless of when you’re stretching, you should always limit the amount of time you hold a stretch. According to a 2012 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, you should hold each stretch for just 60 seconds.
The study found that if you stretch a muscle for more than 60 seconds in one particular position, you decrease the power that muscle is able to provide, as it’s so stretched out.
If the aim of the stretch is to increase your range of motion, you should stretch for about 30 seconds per muscle. Limiting a stretch to 30 seconds will also give you more time to dedicate to other parts of your workout.
Stretching should be slightly uncomfortable, but never painful. Stretching causes the muscle to get tighter which protects the joint by preventing you from moving it too far.
However the goal of stretching is to try to get your joint to move past that point, so you do have to push your muscle a little bit further than it wants to go. In other words, when you stretch, you’re pulling against your own muscle.
This can cause microtrauma to the muscle, similar to the small amount of damage that you get when you lift weights. As a result, stretching can make you sore and, depending on your workout, may actually hurt your recovery. Only push your stretches to the point that you feel discomfort, no further.
Occuring mostly in women, but in some men – hypermobile people are naturally flexible and have a lot of range in movement. You might be able to do the splits and fold completely forward with no warm-up! If that sounds like you then you have a lot of range of motion in your joints – almost too much – and you don’t actually need to stretch during workouts.
Think of the tightness in your muscles as control of your joints. If you have very tight muscles, you have a lot of control with little flexibility. If you’re hypermobile, you have less control with lots of flexibility – this can make you injury prone. Advice for you would be to stick to body-weight or resistance training to regain more control of your joints and avoid stretching.
The two basic types of stretching are: static and dynamic. Your job is to use the right type at the right time in your workout. Static stretching is best done after the workout because you don’t move very much. It’s a cooling, calming and restorative way to wind down. Dynamic stretching is best before activities like swimming, running and lifting weights. It involves moving whilst you stretch which gives you the added benefit of warming up your body.
If you are in any doubt however about which is the right stretch for you – and when to do them – then do not hesitate to contact us for further advice.