Sports Medicine

6 Simple Rules for Safe Stretching

warm-up

Learn about 6 really simple rules to follow for a safe flexibility workout.

Photo: Creative commons

Stretching is the key to maintaining your flexibility — in other words, how far and how easily you can move your joints.

Below are 6 simple rules to follow for a safe flexibility workout.

  • Rule 1: Warm-up Prior to Stretching

    Always stretch warm muscles. A cold muscle is like a frozen elastic band, it will snap and cause injury. For best results, perform a light movement warm up for 3 to 5 minutes prior to stretching because this will add fluid and mobility to the joints and to bring blood flow to the surrounding muscles. Quick tip is to warm up until you break a light sweat before you stretch.

  • Rule 2: Stretch after Exercise

    Stretch at the best time in your workout. It is not necessary to stretch before you work out but it is absolutely necessary to stretch after you work out.

  • Rule 3: Stretch All Major Muscles, Balance is Key

    If you use a muscle group, it needs to be stretched. Balanced strong and stretched muscles are important for joint health. If you have tight hamstrings for example, your pelvis is going to be pulled out of alignment, which can cause back pain. We want muscles to be balanced from one side to the other as well (front to back).

  • Rule 4: Stretch Slowly

    Move into each stretching position slowly. Never force yourself into a stretch by jerking or snapping into position.

  • Rule 5: Stretch ONLY to Your Maximum Point of Tension

    A stretch should rate anywhere from mild tension to the edge of discomfort on your pain meter. It should never cause severe or sharp pain anywhere else in your body.

  • Rule 6: Practice Effective Breathing

    As you hold each position, take at least two deep breaths. Deep breathing promotes relaxation.

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