Top 10 Stretching Mistakes (Part 2)
In Part 2 of this series on stretching mistakes, we're going to discuss 5 more errors many people make when stretching that can cause more harm than good. So take a few deep breaths, limber up with a few arm and leg swings, and let’s jump right in!
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In Part 1 of this series on stretching, you learned about the top 5 mistakes people make when stretching. I urge you to check out Part 1 now. As a brief review, here are the first 5 big mistakes:
- stretching knotted muscles
- stretching with poor posture
- stretching yourself into a muscular imbalance
- stretching while stressed
- stretching through pain
Today, we’re going to discuss the last 5 stretching mistakes. So take a few deep breaths, limber up with a few arm and leg swings, and let’s jump right in!
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Mistake #6: Stretching Before Strength
It’s no secret that the more limber a muscle is, the weaker it becomes. Just think about a rubber band. A long, stretchy rubber band is far less strong than a tight, springy rubber band.
For example, a recent study on runners found that runners were on average 13-seconds slower when they performed stretching immediately prior to a 1-mile uphill run. So much for those toe-touches before you go tackle the hill repeat! In fact, multiple research studies have shown that static stretching can inhibit the amount of force that a muscle can produce and limit physical performance in just about any jumping, running, or lifting activity you may do after a stretching session.
And if you say you’re just doing stretching before your workout so you don’t get injured, then you should know that further data has shown that static stretching doesn’t even reduce your risk of injury, which is one of the primary reasons that you may have been led to believe you should do it before exercise.
The New York Times recently reported on two new studies that continued to prove the detrimental effects of static stretching pre-workout. The first study showed strength impairments in people who performed static stretching before lifting, compared to those who performed the type of dynamic warm-ups you’ll learn about in just a bit.
The second study looked at a total of 104 previous studies on stretching and athletic performance, and found that in almost every study – regardless of age, sex, or fitness level of the participants – static stretching before a workout decreased performance. This all comes down to the fact that making muscles loose and making tendons too stretchy prior to exercise makes these soft tissue components less above to produce quick and powerful responses.
So if you’re about to lift weights, run fast, or do anything that requires power and explosiveness, don’t do traditional “stretch and hold” style stretching. Do dynamic stretching instead - and here’s how!
Mistake #7: Stretching Without Stiffness
Even if you’re stretching the right way, you still need to make a muscle “stiff.” Wait a minute! Doesn’t a stiff muscle result in a muscle that is more prone to injury? This all comes down to semantics. While rolling out of bed with a “stiff” back and going out to the backyard to move heavy rocks is a quick path to injury, the same doesn’t necessarily hold true for tendons.
Take the Achilles tendon in the back of your legs below your calves, for example. That tendon needs to be tight and springy in order for you to run fast or jump high – and the fastest sprinters and highest jumpers in the world have been shown to have more tendon “stiffness” in their Achilles tendon, and also their hamstrings, quadriceps, and other big leg muscles.
So how do you make a muscle “stiff”? The answer is plyometrics. In my episode How to Run Faster, I teach you all about plyometrics, which includes exercises like jumping, hopping, skipping, and bounding. If all you do is stretch, without doing these other type of explosive motions, you’re not going to get a good balance of stretching and stiffness.