Stretching forms are a part of complete workout routine. But if the stretches make you wince in pain and force you to use a hot compress later that night, it is possible you are making one of 10 common mistakes.
1. Warming up is key
Many people think of stretching as a warm-up to exercising. They couldn’t be more wrong! Warm-ups before exercising would be some form of cardio – walking, jogging, cycling, swimming are all good cardio exercises. They ensure your muscles don’t injure themselves while stretching. Cold muscles are much more prone to injury, so ensure you have done 15 minutes of cardio before you start with stretching.
2. Stretching the wrong muscles
Now this is a tricky one. Sometimes you may want to stretch a certain body part but might end up stretching something else. Get to know your flexibility exercises well or, better still, ask a professional for help if you are facing difficulty in stretching a certain body part like your hamstring or your sides. After all, it’s better to get an expert opinion than end up doing all that hard work with no visible results.
3. Putting excessive weight on your joints
This usually happens when you aren’t stretching in the right body position. Before you start any kind of stretching, do one of three things – speak to a professional, watch a live demo or a video. This way, you have the right knowledge of how to stand, how to bend and how to move. Too much pressure on your joints will only result in injuries.
4. Too much pressure on ligaments
Stretching is for your muscles, and not for ligaments. But if you aren’t careful and make one wrong move, you can stretch a ligament or even rupture it. Be careful of your stretching position and pay special attention to how much pressure you exert on your ligaments to get optimum benefits out of your workout.
5. Unequal stretching
This one is the most common mistake. You did 10 reps to stretch the right side and then got lazy so did just five for the left. Result? Pain! Make sure you perform balanced stretching so that you don’t have tightened muscles on one side while the other side is happily relaxed.
6. Cut out the jerks
Even after you’ve done a warm-up routine, it’s very important that you keep all stretching movements smooth and slow. Fast or jerky movements will give you a catch in the muscles you are trying to stretch.
7. Go static
Stretching is only effective when you stretch your muscles to their maximum limit and hold the position for a minimum of 20 seconds. These are called static stretches. This ensures that the stretch is smooth and fluid and reduces risk of injury that can otherwise occur if you repeat too many movements too fast.
8. Being inconsistent
If stretching is a part of your workout routine, be serious about it. Don’t skip it for lack of time or laziness, else the positive effects you see in the body due to stretching (toning and shaping) will be lost. If you absolutely don’t have time, cut your cardio time with a few minutes instead.
9. Not reaching far enough
We’re not saying you should overstretch, but don’t under-stretch either. When you want to stretch a certain body part, extend it as far as you can. During the next repetition, try going a little further. This way, by the final rep you will have totally stretched out and loosened those set of muscles.
10. Stretching alone isn’t enough
Are you putting excess pressure on your body because you believe stretching alone will sculpt your body? That’s where you’re wrong! Stretching alone will not keep you in good shape. You’ll need a healthy balance of cardio, weight training, strength training, stretching and a nutritious diet for good results.