Rules of Thumb for Safe Stretching


We have all seen this before: a runner stretching behind his car getting ready to hit the track. He stands there with one leg up onto the truck, his knee straight and locked. Then he reached out towards his toes, bounce, hold, bound, hold.  Next, he grabs his calf and pulls himself lower towards his toe, bouncing along the way. Success and now ready to run!  Right? Wrong!

Only a relaxed muscle will allow itself to be stretched. When a muscle is stretched with bouncing and pulling, it will contract and tighten which sets the runner up for injury. Also, by putting one leg up on the trunk, he is tightening up all the muscles in his body from his ankle all the way up to his neck. Well then how should a person stretch?

The following are good rules of thumb for keeping your body safe when you are stretching:

  1. Warm your Body Up: Always increase the temperature of your muscles before stretching, by performing light aerobic activity such as walking. Another good time to stretch is after a warm shower/ or bath.
  2. Timing is Everything: After your muscles are warmed up, try to perform each stretch 2 to 5 times and hold each stretch 15 to 30 seconds. You can always progress up to holding your stretches for longer periods of time. Listen to your body- it will let you know how long to hold the stretch for. Do not stretch to the point of pain. Some discomfort or tension is ok, pain is not.
  3. Think Functional: Stretch those joints that you need in everyday life. For example, keeping your knees flexible so that you can climb up and down stairs without difficulty.
  4. Do it Right: It is safer and more effective to go slow. Bouncing does not increase flexibility bur actually causes the muscle to contract and shorten when may induce micro tears or strain the muscles.
  5. Every Day is Different: Flexibility varies from day to day and from person to person. Do not compete with any one else. Be patient and remember this is your time.


Sharon Rashidi

B.S Health Education

Owner of The Perfect Workout