Stretching is key in order to keep our joints and muscles healthy, and have enough mobility to perform the types of exercises and activities that we want to. However, there are a lot of myths about stretching, so let’s discuss…
1. You need to stretch before exercising.
One of the most common misconceptions about stretching is that you have to do it before exercise. This is not necessarily true – while stretching can be beneficial, it’s not essential to do it before working out. Many think stretching before working out decreases their chance of injury, but there’s actually no evidence to back up this claim. I would recommend being consistent with your stretching routine (don’t skip it!) and incorporate dynamic stretches into your routine.
Dynamic stretching is when you move your body through a range of motion, such as leg swings, arm circles, or trunk rotations. This type of stretching is more beneficial than static stretching (when you hold a stretch for a period of time), because it prepares your muscles for activity and increases blood flow to the area.
2. You should hold a stretch for 30 seconds.
You may have heard that in order to properly stretch a muscle, you need to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. However, research shows that holding a stretch for 15-30 seconds is just as effective as holding it for longer periods of time. So if you’re short on time, don’t worry – shorter stretches are just as good! I recommend holding a stretch until you feel a little more comfortable in it, then move to the next one. This can be anywhere from 15-60 seconds – it really depends on your flexibility and body.
3. You can never stretch too much.
Another myth about stretching is that you can never stretch too much. You actually can! Over-stretching can lead to injuries. It’s important to find a balance that works for you. It’s typical for people to over-stretch body parts that are in pain because it may provide short-term relief to the pain, but this could actually be damaging more in the long run. Your body may be telling you that you need to strengthen that area rather than stretch it more. If you think your stretching is doing more harm than good, make sure that you are warming up before stretching with a quick walk or jog. A lot of stretching injuries can occur when you’re trying to stretch cold muscles.
4. Stretching makes your muscles look longer.
Finally, many people believe that stretching will lengthen your muscle tissues and make your muscles appear longer. False! Stretching does not change the length of your muscles or tendons. However, if you stretch consistently over time, your muscles will become more flexible and pliable, which will allow for greater range of motion.
The best way to make your muscles appear longer is to do exercises that incorporate both lengthening and strengthening components. Pilates, yoga, and the majority of exercises incorporated in CSFIT, are great for this type of result, in addition to consistent strength training.
Were any of your beliefs on stretching debunked? Incorporating a regular stretching routine into your exercise regime is important, but make sure you’re doing it safely and effectively. Happy stretching!