Why is stretching so difficult? It seems as though it should be easy and simple. Need to stretch your hamstrings. Okay, bring your feet together and try to touch your toes. Quads tight? Then from a standing position, grab the top of a foot with the same hand and draw your heel in. Like I said, seems easy right? Well, yes and no.

 

It’s easy because with a small amount of knowledge, you can do simple stretches for the main muscle groups. What makes stretching challenging is doing it right so that it is effective and useful for the sport or activity that you train for or participate in.

 

In later articles I will dive into how to stretch properly and assessing issues with mobility, range of motion, and overall recovery from training. Today, I’ll  discuss the top five ways you are stretching incorrectly.

 

stretching

Are you doing everything you can to maximize your stretching efforts? [Photo courtesy of CrossFit Empirical]

 

Common Stretching Pitfalls

  1. You stay in stretches for too long. You are not doing a disservice to your muscles by holding it for over two minutes. In the yin yoga practice, stretches are held for up to ten minutes or more. But for efficiency, recovery, and consistency, holding a stretch for one minute to ninety seconds is the most beneficial.

 

  1. You don’t stay in stretches long enough. We are all guilty of it. We say we stretch but really, we tried to touch our toes for about ten seconds and called it a day. Just as stretching for too long is inefficient, so is stretching for a short period of time.

 

  1. You warm up by doing static stretches. While the jury is still out on the scientific rationale of this, the fitness industry is realizing that dynamic stretches and movement prior to workouts optimizes performance, while static stretching post workout aids in recovery.

 

  1. You stretch when your body is not warm. Warm muscles are looser and more pliable, so make sure to elevate your body temperature for at least five minutes before you stretch.

 

  1. You stretch too far. This is how injuries occur. When you are cold and stretch too far too soon, or when you are really warm and continue to push farther in a stretch, you can easily pull or strain a muscle. Stretch only to the point to where you feel it, and not beyond your limit.

 

Effective Stretching for Performance

Stretching correctly is important to getting the most out of your recovery. No longer can you stretch your quads and call it a day. To become a better athlete and improve movement, you have to understand that mobility, range of motion, and post-workout recovery are just as important as training itself.

 

Tight hips? Start here:

5 Stretches to Regain Hip Mobility and Flexibility

 

Coaches: Do you train kids?

A Primer on Stretching for Adolescent Athletes

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