As with most activities there are rules and guidelines to ensure safety. Stretching is no exception – it can be extremely dangerous and harmful if done incorrectly.
We all know exercise is important, but what about stretching? Does stretching take a back seat to your exercise routine? Not so fast.
Stretching may help you:
- Improve your joint range of motion
- Improve your athletic performance
- Decrease your risk of injury
Before you plunge into stretching, make sure you do it safely and effectively. While you can stretch anytime, anywhere, proper technique is key. Stretching incorrectly can actually do more harm than good.
Slowly get into the stretch position and then hold each stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds, remember to adhere to the following rules to get the most from your stretching routine:
- Never stretch an injury or damage soft tissue
- Warm-up prior to stretching
- Make stretches sport/activity specific
- Stretch all major muscles and their opposing muscle groups
- Stretch gently and slowly
- Stretch only to the point of tension, not pain
- Breathe slowly and easily while stretching
- Be consistent with your stretching
How long should I hold each stretch?
For any real benefit to our flexibility, we should hold each stretch for at least 20 -30 seconds.
How often should I stretch?
For example, the beginner should stretch each muscle group 2-3 times. However, if we are involved at a more advanced level in our sport we should stretch 3-5 times.
How long should I stretch?
For the beginner, about 5-10 minutes is enough, and for the professional athlete, anything up to two hours.
Stretching can be time-consuming, but extremely beneficial. No one gets fit in just a couple of weeks, so do not expect miracles from a stretching routine. Skipping regular stretching means you may lose its benefits. For example, if stretching helped increase your range of motion or ease your pain, your range of motion may decrease or pain may return if you stop stretching. Looking long term, some muscle groups may need a minimum of three months of intense stretching to see any real improvement. Stick with it – it is well worth the effort.
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