Deadly Sins of Stretching: In this article we’ll talk about the most serious mistakes when training for flexibility. It’s extremely important that you pay attention to these, since making these mistakes will, if you are lucky, just get you stuck, however, in many cases they will get you injured.
Sins of Stretching: We’ll explain each mistake and we’ll give you solutions for each. Let’s begin!
1- Holding a stretch
This is one of the less obvious ones, since what most people know about becoming flexible is exactly that, holding a stretch.
People using this approach are wondering why their flexibility is not improving, most of them just gave up becoming flexible already, because it’s slow and painful, and they don’t feel it benefits them in any way.
Sins of Stretching
Those who are more steady with this approach, mostly people who practiced yoga, or learned the old stretching ways that became popular in the 80s, they wonder why they seem to make progress one day to come back to square one by the following training session.
The body is doing this, coming back to your original flexibility, to protect itself. Whatever flexibility you gain stretching this way, holding stretches forever, will vanish, as it is not complemented by the proper strengthening, securing and habituation techniques.
Sins of Stretching
So if you don’t stretch or hold a position to increase your flexibility, what do you do instead?!
Dynamic type of flexibility exercises, and we are not only promoting the Zaichik Stretching Technique (ZST) here, which is dynamic, safe and includes strengthening and habituation techniques.
Basically, if you want to develop quick flexibility and have it stick from session to session, incorporate movement, and strength into your stretches.
There are also other methods, just do not stretch passively to improve flexibility, and if a method you find involves this and only this, then keep looking, that is not the method you need to be flexible.
A proper flexibility training method includes:
– dynamic stretching to increase range of motion
– strengthening exercises to secure the new range
– movement and habituation techniques to make your newly gained flexibility stick
– cool down exercises, and these yes are passive and relaxed
Passive static flexibility has many benefits, such as speeding up recovery, learning about your body, calming down your nervous system. It should be used for what it is intended, not for increasing flexibility.
2- Pushing a stretch
This is the more harmful version of the above. This is straight looking for an injury. Holding a stretch is not as dangerous if we consider this one. Holding a stretch may be at the level of “playing with fire”, while this is “playing with a grenade”.
Sins of Stretching
People do it in a number of ways:
- pulling with a machine
- asking a partner to push
All very wrong and dangerous! What’s the point! We feel it hurts already holding it, let’s go all the way and rip the tendons, nerves and muscles off, right? So sad this is still used at dance and gymnastics schools.
Sins of Stretching
The alternative and smart way is to gradually let our body adapt to new ranges, using a dynamic approach, which preferably avoids the stretch reflex, like the Zaichik Stretching Techniques.
You will find many of these techniques throughout our blogs here, on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel.
3- Stretching every day
Yes, you read it correctly, training everyday for flexibility gains can get you injured. Now, we must clear this up like with the others, as the popular idea is right the opposite.
You first have to learn that stretching for flexibility is not the same as stretching to loosen up or to cool down.
- Loosening up every day is fine. Attempting to increase your range of motion every day or even two days in a row is not.
Now that you are aware of this difference you know why some people recommend to stretch every day, while others don’t. They are actually speaking about different things, using the same word.
When you stretch to become more flexible muscles suffer:
- you are repeating the technique, working on your Zaichik Stretching Techniques or a different dynamic, effective and safe type of stretch…
- practicing your sets and repetitions, improving your awareness, going deeper and deeper…
… while your muscles are becoming tired, getting the normal micro-injuries that come from exercise, so you naturally have to rest.
This is much like when you do any type of conditioning exercise:
- you do push-ups, or squats, or run up the hill, you will then be sore, your body will adapt and improve, and you have to let this natural process take place.
- If you train before you are fully recovered, you will re-strain your body while it is recovering, which will make you need even more time to rest, or will just plain get you injured.
Stretching for flexibility is very stressing for our bodies, same as lifting weights. Stretching for loosening up or cooling down is done differently, looking for relaxation, for slight and gradual extension of the tissues and so on. Other techniques are used.
This brings up the issue that most people are using cooling down stretching techniques to increase flexibility. No wonder their flexibility gains are slow or non-existent. Much like when we use a wrench to put a nail in the wall. You can do it, but it’s not ideal, you may break the tool or the nail or the wall, or all three, and it’s just not the tool to do it.
Pay attention to your ideal frequency of training: this is personal and it depends on your diet, stress levels, training level, genes, even weather, so you have to find this precise moment when it’s good to train again.
If you are interested in understanding this point from a scientific point of view, you can research on the topic of “supercompensation”,
For most people it’s safe to leave 24 whole hours for resting, though normally when you are doing something new, or training for deep flexibility you may need up to 72 hours.
A quick way to test if you can stretch for flexibility again, is to press on your muscles. If they are tender then you must rest.
It is during recovery that you improve. Exercise is a stress, a stimulus for your body to let it know it has to improve. Your body will get stronger and more flexible, provided you give it time to distribute the right nutrients and create new and better tissues according to that stimulus, and as long as the stimulus was exactly that, a stimulus not a huge stress: it has to be in the right intensity and duration.
4- Not being steady
This must have happened to you: you watch a very motivating dance or martial arts or gymnastics movie and you are all pumped up, or you meet someone that motivates you and you go training full throttle for a week, then you stop…
Then you remember that you had committed yourself to becoming more flexible and so you start again, training 3 hours every time, then you quit for another week…
At this point you have gained… wait, nothing. You’ve just wasted a month of your life. Whatever you progressed you went back to square one, even if you were not doing any of the other “sins” above.
Make up your mind about what and how much you can do…
… and stick to it.
Is it 10 minutes 3 times a week? Then maintain that, focusing on optimizing your day in order to do 30 minutes 3 times per week.
Those 10 minutes 3 times per week for a month will give you results, compared to absolutely no results following an “intermittent approach”.
It is true that one gets according to how much one invests, still harvesting 5 degrees of flexibility per month can take you to full split in ten months if you are 50 degrees away, whereas 0 degrees per month will take you nowhere, in a year or in 20 years.
5- Not having a map
This embodies all of the others in a way. Flexibility improvement takes a long time, and much effort in remaining steady, focused in your goal to master that skill, in eating right and resting properly.
Sins of Stretching
Since the trip is a long one, you must be sure you are taking the right turns every time. A wrong turn can land you in the wrong place.
If one day you do this one stretch, try it for a while then stop, then find another stretch or another youtube video and do it even if it feels wrong or does nothing, then you keep looking and find another “expert” that shows great flexibility so she or he must know what he is talking about, right? … and you go train their method for a while, then you drop it again.
Or you do what your dance teacher, or yoga teacher says, then you also do what this other guy or friend says, you are “having each foot on a different boat”, where do you think you’ll end up, with a nice “split over two boats” like Van Damme’s Volvos one? Ha! More likely you’ll end up in the water!
So that you don’t make these mistakes and others you are not aware of or not spoken about in this article, we invite you to start with one of our programs. If you need help picking one, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.