Cheltenham Club

Fri 4 Sep, 2015

The 6 Do’s and Dont’s of Stretching


Stretching is sometimes a bit of a grey area.

There’s often a lot of confusion surrounding it, and most of the time the experts can’t even agree! Some coaches swear by flexibility training, whereas others act as if it doesn’t even exist.

But who’s right?

We feel that when used correctly, stretching is a useful tool that can take your fitness to new realms. That being said, there are a few things to consider before you jump in and try getting into the splits…

To clear up some of the confusion, here are our top six “dos and don’ts” that you should keep in mind when it comes to your stretching practice.

The Dos

 

Do – Mobilise all of your joints before a workout

Before you hit the trails or start lifting heavy weights, it’s important to prepare your body to do work. Performing simple, dynamic mobility exercises from the neck down to the toes will help you do just that.

Think neck rotations, arm swings, hip circles, etc. Ten to fifteen minutes of movement before your session will make sure that everything is aligned and that all of your joints are performing as they should be, with full range of motion (before you start putting any big forces through them).

Sport. Runner. Muscular young african man looking away with stretching his leg.

Do – Focus more on your problem areas

When you perform static stretching (either after your normal workout or in a separate dedicated session) you’ll probably notice that some muscles are tighter than others. Common problem areas include the hip flexors, hamstrings, and pecs – which become tight after excessive sitting.

It’s important to pay attention to these muscle groups and give them some extra attention. Maybe perform a few more sets, or hold the stretch for a little longer. This will free up your joints and help you avoid posture issues further down the line.

Do – Breathe!

Holding your breath throughout a stretch will make it much more difficult for your nervous system to relax your muscles, preventing you from going deeper.

Remember to breathe deeply into your belly using your diaphragm, as opposed to shallow chest breathing. You can also lengthen the time spent exhaling to engage your parasympathetic nervous system and relax the body further.

 

Man running in a gym on a treadmill concept for exercising, fitness and healthy lifestyle

The Don’ts

Don’t – Ignore stretching completely

Many people are under the impression that strength and flexibility do not go hand in hand. They feel that by stretching they may somehow undo all of their hard earned gains.
You only have to look to gymnasts to see that this isn’t necessarily always true.

Stretching can even increase your maximum strength by increasing the range of motion around the joint, meaning more force can be delivered. Being mobile is also a key component of living a healthy lifestyle and will pay off in the long run, so make it a priority.

Don’t – Push it to the point of pain

The “no pain, no gain” approach is definitely not one that you want to apply to your stretching practice. Whilst you should feel a small amount of discomfort, if you reach the point of pain, unfortunately you’ve already done damage.

Injuries to ligaments and tendons can take months to heal, so err on the side of caution and ensure that your body is warm before you attempt any serious stretching.

Young woman on floor stretching out her leg and hamstrings.

Don’t – Perform static stretches prior to strength training

Static stretching no doubt has its place, but if you want to get the most out of your strength training sessions, it should probably be reserved until later.

Studies have shown that static stretching prior to a strength workout considerably reduces power output for up to an hour afterwards. Instead, perform dynamic stretches and mobility drills, as mentioned above.