Performing stretches before and after your workout is a great way to increase your flexibility and range of motion. It greatly improves your training and overall quality of life. However, performing stretches when you lack proper flexibility can result in injury. Before your next workout, make sure you know these potentially dangerous stretches and how to avoid them.
Full Neck Rotations
If you have ever suffered from a neck injury, then avoid doing neck rotations. Rolling your neck at full range can cause serious injuries. Instead, gently bend your neck from side to side, then up and down. Make sure to stay within a comfortable range and take your movement at a slow pace.
A general yoga practice with slightly different variations, the yoga plough requires you to lie on your back and stretch your legs over your head. You should end up with your knees beside your ears, and consequently, with a tremendous amount of strain in your lower back.
A better alternative to stretch your lower back is the cat stretch. Position yourself on your hands and knees. Gently roll your spine toward the ceiling while moving your chin to your chest. Then push your abdomen toward the floor while raising your chin to point outward.
Though it is a sign of advancement in yoga class, the bridge compresses your spinal disks and can leave you with pinched nerves. Unlike many yoga stretches, the bridge offers little healing power and should be practiced with caution.
To achieve a great abdominal stretch without putting pressure on your spine, try this safer approach. Lie on the floor face down, then press your upper body off the floor with your hands. Your arms should straighten all the way, pulling your abdominal muscles toward the ceiling.
This hamstring stretch requires that you sit on the floor with one knee bent beneath you, while the other is outstretched. The pressure placed on your bent knee may cause serious joint injury.
A safer approach to stretching your hamstring is to place both legs straight out in front of you and lean over. This stretch should only be performed after exercise and never as a warm up to your training.
Static Stretches before Training
Most of our lives we have been taught to perform static stretches, or stretches without movement, before we exercise. Research shows that this actually causes more harm to your muscles and may increase your risk of injury.
Before exercising, it is best to perform a series of dynamic stretches that require body movement while increasing your flexibility. Stretching before you workout should prepare your body for the training, so perform dynamic movements that are related to the exercise you are about to perform.
Some excellent dynamic stretches are:
- Arm circles
- Walking lunges
- Trunk rotations
- Hamstring stretches using an exercise band
- Groin stretch on a stability ball
Always warm up your muscles before performing stretches. If you take yoga classes, walk on the treadmill or ride the exercise bike for 10 minutes before class to prepare your muscles for the exercise.