Every fitness program should include stretching, but proper stretching techniques need to be followed.
Stretching, like any other type of exercise, has to be performed correctly to be beneficial. If stretching is not performed correctly, it won't improve flexibility and it could even cause injury.
Here are seven ways to make sure that you're stretching effectively and safely.
1. Don't stretch cold muscles.
Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, and several studies have shown that stretching cold muscles slightly decreases muscle strength and power for up to an hour after stretching. Warm up first, then stretch. Or stretch after your workout.
2. Don't make a stretch painful.
Many people believe that stretching has to be painful to be effective, but this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when stretching. Stretching is not an activity that's meant to be painful; it should be pleasurable and relaxing. Stretch only to the point where you can feel mild tension in your muscles.
3. Don't bounce while stretching.
Stretching should be fluid and gentle, not rapid and jerky. Stretching fluidly and gently helps to relax your muscles, which in turn makes stretching more beneficial and pleasurable.
4. Hold a stretch long enough.
Hold a stretch for at least 10 seconds, and try to gradually increase the amount of time you can hold your stretches. Not holding a stretch long enough will do little to increase your flexibility.
5. Breathe naturally while stretching.
Many people unconsciously hold their breath while stretching. This causes tension in the muscles, which in turn makes it difficult to stretch. Always breathe naturally while stretching.
6. Don't stretch an injury.
If you've sustained a muscle or joint injury because you've negleted to incorporate stretching into your workout routine, now is not the time to start stretching. Wait until your injury has healed, then start stretching.
7. Stretch on a regular basis.
You need to stretch at least three times per week if you want to derive any real benefits from stretching.
In conclusion, by following proper stretching techniques you'll ensure that you're performing your stretches effectively and safely and getting the most out of your stretching routine.
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