Guidelines for a safe Stretching RoutineTweet
While implementing a stretching routine into your workout is very important, performing it correctly is equally as important. There are several simple guidelines to follow that will protect you from injury while stretching and will also help minimize muscle soreness after your workouts.
We’ve all heard this before, but breathing is the perfect “counter” for us during our stretching routine. Take deep breaths as you stretch. It is a good rule of thumb to hold each stretch for a total of 5-6 deep breaths or about 30 seconds and up to 60 seconds for really tight muscles or problem areas. As you exhale each time, extend slightly deeper into the stretch. When you inhale you should relax the stretch slightly and contract the muscle.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t bounce as you stretch. This opens you up to muscle tearing and injury. Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears, called microtears, in the muscle, which will leave scar tissue as the muscle heals. This scar tissue will tighten the muscles even further, making you less flexible.
Don’t overstretch. Your body will tell you its limits…listen to your body. A stretch should be tight, but not painful. If you overstretch you might create an automatic myotatic reflex that will actually cause the muscle to recoil and tighten up to try to protect itself from tearing and injury. You know you have gone too far if you feel pain as you stretch.
Do warm up your muscles first. If possible try and make the warm up as similar to your workout activity as possible. For example some light jogging in place prior to going for a run. Cold muscles simply don’t stretch. Get the blood flowing through your muscles by first performing a minimum of 5 – 10 minutes aerobic work.
Are you supposed to stretch before or after your workout? That is a very good question. The answer is both. Before running or working out it is important to warm up muscles and get more oxygen to them. A great warm up is jumping jacks for a few minutes then a brief stretch of each of the major muscles. After running or working out, a good stretching routine will help to remove lactic acid from the muscle. This in turn reduces muscle soreness, which promotes better flexibility. You can also perform your stretching exercises while resting between lifts during your strength training.
After your workout when you are all sweaty, take a hot shower first and then stretch. The hot water will help relax the muscles and you’ll get the best stretch.
Follow this general guideline for a safe stretching routine.
2. Light stretch
4. Thorough stretching routine
Studies have found that when you follow your warm-up with a stretching routine you will increase your range of motion. While flexibility can be genetic, it can also be developed and improved by implementing a solid stretching routine into your workout.
Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you start a stretching routine.