Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Are you stretching correctly? Do you know what you should be feeling in your body when stretching? Are you assisting your body to get the most out of stretching?
These are questions that often get forgotten when we get motivated to do a big stretch session, then find ourselves feeling worse the next day!
Stretching seems like a basic skill, doesn’t it? However, if you are uneducated in how to most effectively stretch for your body then you could potentially be doing more harm than good!
If you follow us on social media you will have seen that each Sunday we have been providing our dancers with a #stretchsunday tip to ensure they are improving their stretching during isolation. Below is a summary of the past 5 weeks of tips if you have missed out!
1. B R E A T H I N G
Have you ever caught yourself holding in a breath when you are inching your body further to flexibility? I am ashamed to say that I am definitely one of those culprits!
Did you know that when you hold your breath while stretching you are actually depriving your muscles of oxygenated blood? Your muscles need this oxygenated blood to support your muscles and to stop lactic acid builds up. This can very easily explain why you may feel pain when you stretch, due to the lactic acid build-up!
2. W A R M U P
Did you know that you need to warm up before a big stretch session? (But Lauren...I thought stretching was the warm-up!?)
Warming up before stretching helps to increase flexibility and joint range of motion. It is important to loosen stiff muscles in order to improve your overall stretching performance. You can warm up before stretching by marching on the spot for a few minutes or by walking up and down a flight of stairs a few times.
3. H O L D S T R E T C H
Do you know how long you should be holding your stretches?
A stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds. This allows you to feel the stretch in your muscles but is not long enough to cause any significant pain. If you notice that your muscles are tight, you can hold your stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat the stretch 2-3 times.
4. D O N’ T B O U N C E
Did you know that you should not bounce when stretching?
Ballistic stretching is the term given when you bounce while stretching. These rapid, uncontrolled, and jerky movements are not recommended, as they can cause muscle soreness and even result in an injury!
Bouncing when stretching damages the soft tissues (ligaments and tendons) around the joints which can develop into tendonitis. Bouncing can also force the muscles to tear and the ligaments to be overstretched which can lead to loose and unstable joints, furthering the risk for injury. Ouch!
5. R E D U C E P A I N
The general rule for stretching is you should feel a GENTLE PULL or mild discomfort, BUT NOT PAIN!
If you feel pain when stretching it is your neurons (nerve cells) sending a signal from your muscles to your central nervous system saying that something is wrong. As a result, your muscles contract, tighten, and resist the stretch. That sudden acute pain you feel is the reaction from your muscles when you have pushed too far. If you feel this sudden pain you should slowly ease off the stretch immediately, to ensure you do not cause any damage to your muscles!
If you have muscle soreness prior to stretching you should not stretch intensely. Intense stretching can further enlarge tiny tears in your muscle fibers cause microtraumas which results in your muscles still feeling sore rather than relaxed.
Other questions to keep in mind to reduce pain when stretching;
• Is my body sore and aching from an intense workout the day before? If so, make sure you do slow, low-intensity stretching to reduce the pain.
• Am I feeling any mild pain when holding my stretch? If so, slowly ease off your stretch and hold where it feels comfortable.
6. M A J O R M U S C L E G R O U P S
When having a big stretch session it is important to stretch out all of your major muscle groups.
This includes your; • Arm and Shoulder Muscles (delts, biceps, triceps, and forearms)
• Chest and Abdominal Muscles (pecs, abs, and obliques)
• Back Muscles (lats, rhomboids, and traps)
• Legs and Buttocks Muscles (quads, hamstrings, calves, and gluteus)
7. S Y M M E T R Y
Do you know what it means to have symmetry when stretching?
This means that once you have held a stretch for 10-30 seconds for one muscle that you should then repeat the stretch for the opposing muscle.
When we stretch at DTLS, we like to start stretching from our head and work our way down our bodies, making sure that we are stretching our muscles symmetrically.
8. B A L A N C E
When we talk about balance in relation to stretching it is about a combination of symmetry in the muscle groups of your body as well as holding your stretches for an even amount of time. As you stretch make sure you stretch each muscle on both sides of your body while also holding the stretch for the same amount of time. For example, if you are stretching your neck to the right side for 30 seconds then the following stretch you would do is stretch your neck to the left side for 30 seconds.
Have you ever found yourself motivated to have a big stretch session only to get bored halfway through and then rush the rest of your stretches? Make sure you are allowing yourself enough time to stretch in order to complete a well-balanced stretch session.
9. R E G U L A R I T Y
We think this is by far the hardest stretch tip! Regularity. It is so simple, yet we always find an excuse not to stretch. Stretching regularly will not only increase your flexibility but it will also improve your posture, range of motion, blood circulation, and alleviate muscular tension. Stretching may also enhance your overall athletic performance and can reduce the risk of injury. Even if you stretch for 5/10 minutes in the morning, during your lunch break, or before you go to sleep, it is beneficial! Just make sure you are stretching regularly.
Remember to ease your body into it and set realistic expectations for yourself. However often you are already stretching, aim to stretch another 2 times this week. If you don’t stretch at all, then try to do at least 2 stretch sessions over the next week. If you only stretch before exercise, then try to find another 2 separate times to stretch. If you stretch every day (good on you!), break up your stretch sessions into 2 smaller sessions at different times of the day and see how your body feels.
10. I N J U R I E S
There are two things to consider about injuries when stretching. How to prepare your body for stretching with an injury and how to avoid injuries while stretching.
STRETCHING WITH A PRIOR INJURY
Make sure you have consulted your doctor, chiropractor, or physiotherapist prior to doing any stretching or physical movement. Educate yourself as to what type of injury you have and learn the correct steps to take when dealing with a sustained injury. Here is our list of some dos and don’ts for stretching with an injury.
• Know what type of injury you are dealing with prior to treating
• Rest the muscle as much as you can
• Elevate the limb while resting
• Ice the muscle to ease any inflammation
• Compress the muscle when you are moving by wearing a compression guard
• Follow a consistent stretching routine by stretching regularly and slowly
• Push your boundaries too far when dealing with a torn or pulled muscle
• Stretch if you have any inflammation
• Wait too long to start stretching (make sure slowly stretch within 72hrs of an injury)
STRETCHING TO PREVENT INJURIES
As you have learnt over the past 10 weeks, stretching has many positive health benefits for your body! However, when stretching you always need to keep in mind your body’s limits.
• Warm up before stretching
• Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds
• Stretch your body symmetry
• Breath consistently during your stretching
• Stretch regularly to increase flexibility, muscle strength and improve joint motion
• Stretch when your body is cold
• Rush through your stretching
• Push or overstretch sore or tender muscles
We hope you have discovered something new from our stretching checklist that you can now put into practice next time you stretch!
HAPPY STRETCHING EVERYONE 🧘♀️
By Lauren MacKinnon
DTLS Founder & Principle
Want to put these tips and tricks into practice?
Create better stretching habits with us in our Adult Stretch (Open) classes!