As with many things in the fitness industry, there are a lot of misconceptions about the topic of stretching. A common question we hear is, “Is stretching bad for you?” There are people that talk ad nauseum about how it’s so good for you and say that you should do it every day. Then, there are others who say it’s not necessary, or worse, that it’s bad for you. Who’s right? Let’s discuss this.
Bad stretching is bad for you. Or rather, bad practices in stretching are what’s actually bad for you. Your body does need stretching, but it’s something you need to get used to doing, and you need to do it the right way. What does that mean exactly?
Stretching is important for your body, and it's a part of the mobility practice that we share with our clients. However, it’s not the end-all, be-all. Stretching is not the only thing you should focus on. You should be stretching in some capacity as part of your cool down in your workouts. How to stretch is a skill, and we train our clients to understand the best methods for stretching so that they will get the best benefits from doing it.
A common stretching practice that is actually not good for you is to perform a stretch, hold it for 10 seconds and then release. The truth is, that stretch doesn’t offer many benefits. We discuss this when we talk about mobility, but just like your body has to learn and earn the right to perform certain exercises, it has to learn and earn the right to perform stretches as well.
To put it simply - the best answer to the question “Is stretching bad for you?” is that it depends on how you do it. Some may argue that learning the proper way to stretch is too time-consuming, and/or that the amount of time needed to stretch is overwhelming. To that, we say that you must be clear on your priorities. It’s like working out in general - sure, it takes time, but it’s about making it a priority if you hope to see and feel results. As such, you need to make the time to stretch if you want to get the most out of your workouts.
In our work with our clients, we believe that for every hour that you train, you should supplement that with an hour of mobility and stretching work. Doing this helps your body to recover better, and more quickly. Working out in this fashion can improve your sleep as well.
Some of our clients get frustrated while learning how to properly stretch. It’s understandable because for many people stretching the right way is foreign to them. The good news is, like all things, it will get better and easier with practice. You just need to keep at it.
Still, we understand that if you’re not used to doing something it’s hard to try it and be consistent with it. That’s all the more reason it’s critical that you learn how to properly stretch and implement it sooner rather than later. Your body will begin to adapt, you will feel less frustration over time, and it will become cemented in your mindset which will make it that much easier to keep doing it.
Bottom line - stretching the right way is good for you. It will improve your workouts and your body will ultimately thank you for it. Remember, when you’re first starting out, it might not be easy at first. But, you can learn to properly condition and train to be in optimal health. When you’re ready, we’ll be there to help.