Tips for Effective Stretching Without Injuries
Stretching is an important part of your physical activity. Stretching helps to prepare muscles for a workout and recover after it. Stretching exercises strengthen the ligaments, improve the functioning of the joints and help to prevent injuries. But if you are not careful or are doing them wrong, such exercises can lead to muscle and joint injuries. So let’s find out what is an ideal stretching routine.
Types of stretching exercises
When planning your workout, you can choose several types of stretching. In doing so, you will need to account for the workout phase, timing, and intensity of exercise, the range of motion, and possible contraindications for each type of exercise.
- Dynamic stretching
In fact, this type of exercise works as a dynamic warm-up before workouts. Here, the muscles stretch during intensive warm-up movements. It is essential to avoid too much muscle strain and make only a light emphasis on stretching, keeping the stretching tension around 1 second.
- Active isolated stretching
During these exercises, the muscles are stretched until you start to feel a strain, keeping such a position for 1-2 seconds. Such short stretching should be repeated several times with relaxation provided by the antagonist muscle. It helps to decrease the stress on joints and increases flexibility. This type of exercise doesn’t drain the muscles so you can do it before or during the workout.
- Ballistic stretching
Such stretching is done throughout the workout. Here, stretching is done during high-amplitude exercises. When the muscles reach the limit of flexibility, they overcome it in spring-like motion. This type of stretching doesn’t allow you to control tension properly. Although many athletes are used to stretching like this, experts consider this method too dangerous and traumatic for non-professional athelete.
- Static stretching
This is the softest and safest type of stretching. During such exercises, your muscles stretch until feeling discomfort while keeping this position for 15-60 seconds. This type of exercise reduces muscle strength by approximately for an hour. However, it is the most effective way to stretch the muscles and help them to recover after workouts so it’s usually done during the cool-down phase.
- Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation
This method should be practiced only under the supervision of an experienced coach or physiotherapist. It affects fully relaxed muscles and stimulates brain receptors responsible for muscle movements. The movements done under the supervision of an expert will allow for stretching even non-functional and injured muscles and ligaments. PNF is recognized as a very effective methodology. However, it can be very dangerous if done the wrong way.
Keep safety in mind
You shouldn’t practice stretching with any of the following medical conditions:
- immobility of a joint as a consequence of inflammatory disorders or severe intra-articular fractures.
- large hematomas or acute injury of soft tissues.
- ununited fractures or unhealed muscles and skin after surgery.
Your joints are a complex system consisting of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, and synovial fluid that cushions the joint. If any of these elements gets injured, the balance among all parts of this system is lost. This can lead to improper weight distribution, injuries, rigidity, or hypermobility of the joints. We advise you to consult with your practitioner to identify the type of stretching and intensity of workout is suitable for you. Even if you have just begun exercising, we recommend you always keep in mind your medical conditions.
How to avoid injuries during stretching?
- The ‘no pain, no gain’ approach is very popular among those who do workouts. But do not extend it to stretching. While doing your stretching exercises, you might feel mild discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful. Tingling and acute pain, the so-called ‘ouch’-pain are signs of a potential injury during the stretching or stretching of injured muscles and ligaments.
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has published recommendations noticing that burning sensation and/or spasms in stretched muscles can be symptoms of overstretching. In this case, it is recommended to reduce the intensity of exercises. If you don’t go easier, such a workout will result in quite severe pain on the same or the next day.
- Avoid ballistic stretching unless you are a professional athlete. Too intensive stretching movements can injure soft tissue around joints, which poses risks of tendinitis or inflammation of a tendon. Meanwhile, micro-tears in the muscles can lead to a decrease in flexibility over a while. The spring-like movements during static stretching after workouts are particularly dangerous.
Do it in the right place at the right time
The rule of thumb to keep in mind: dynamic stretching should be done before a workout, and static stretching — after the workout. Research entitled Stretching to Prevent or Reduce Muscle Soreness after Exercise, has shown that static stretching of cold muscles can lead to injuries and slow down your flexibility improvement. If you want to do several static stretching exercises, it is recommended to warm up the muscles by having 10 minutes of light cardio exercises.
- Short stretching sessions during the day can help improve flexibility, provide for better blood circulation in the extremities, and reduce stress and muscle strain. It is best achieved by dynamic stretching.
- If you don’t have time for stretching all the muscles, it is better to concentrate on the most commonly strained areas such as the neck and shoulders, thighs, hamstrings, and calves.
Basic flexibility training exercises:
You can do this exercise when sitting or standing. Stretch out your right hand to the left parallel to the floor to have your shoulder pressed to the chest. Move the elbow of your right hand closer to the torso with the help of the left hand until mild discomfort in the right shoulder. Stay in this position for 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat this exercise for the left shoulder.
You can do this exercise sitting or standing. Bring your straight arms back and interlace fingers behind your back. Slowly lift your hands until feeling light stretching in your chest. This exercise is very good for posture, but you shouldn’t do it if you have issues with the shoulder joint.
In a standing position, raise the leg in front of you and put your heel on a bench or chair. Straighten the leg and lean into it, keeping the back straight until feeling strain at the backside of the thigh and calf. Stay in this position for 30 seconds. Repeat the exercise for the other leg.
This exercise is done while you are lying down. Bend your knees. Place the ankle of the left leg on the thigh of the right leg while keeping the knee slightly to the left. Put your hands around your right thigh and pull it slightly until feeling slight discomfort in the left thigh. Keep the upper body relaxed. Stay in this position for 15-30 seconds, change the legs and repeat the exercise for the right thigh.
In a standing position, move the right leg backward. Bend the left knee and press the right heel to the floor. Keep in this position for 30 seconds and repeat the exercise for the left leg.
You can do this exercise while sitting or standing. Reach your arm to the ceiling, bend the elbow and bring the right hand to the back of your head. Push the elbow gently with the other hand while feeling stretched. Keep in this position for 30 seconds and repeat the exercise for the other arm.
Our strength lies in our flexibility!
Stretch in bed in the morning, stretch before and after workouts, and don’t forget to stretch during the day. Your body will be grateful for your efforts, and you will feel great, be flexible, and gain ease of movement.
What to learn more? Read here: