May 25, 201321 people like this
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I wrote this post on Facebook and was invited to share it here as well. Thanks Veena!
There are three main types of overstretching: (1) stretching too intensely, (2) stretching too frequently, and (3) stretching for excessive durations. Here are some basic remedies.
(1.) Determining appropriate intensity can be done either by sensation or by feeling for a "hault." In the latter instance, it is much akin to a safecracker turning the dial until hearing a "click." Push the muscle to the point where it naturally pauses with a small jolt or recoil, then back off of that space by a couple centimetres. Do a few small, controlled, gentle movements to encourage the muscle to relax, and after about 20-30 seconds try to pull it a little deeper. Highly athletic individuals such as hikers, dancers, cyclists are able to safely take a little more force than the rest of us - so if you do not do a lot of lower-body intensive workouts you will need very little force to find this natural "stop sign" in the muscle. In the former case, you will measure by how much the stretch hurts. 7 on a 10 scale is often perfect for most individuals, but you will need to experiment to find what your body will and will not forgive.
(2.) If you are doing intense flexibility training on the same muscle group on two or more consecutive days, or are going to or beyond your current maximum extension more than once daily, you are definitely overstretching. This can cause injury, or at best, a reduction in flexibility. It is best to do your heavy legs and splits flexibility training with one or two "easy" days in-between. Light range of motion exercises are advised on these in-between days. If you have legitimate oversplits, you may do regular splits on your in-between days, or an oversplit with one block instead of three. If you do not yet have splits, your range of motion exercises might look akin to the stretches a meathead does in the gym before or after lifting. You will want to feel slightly tight and stiff the day after doing your heavy splits training, and do only enough movement to ease that discomfort.
(3.) Once you are familiar with all the muscles in your legs and hips, it is easy to stretch each major muscle group individually in less than 45 minutes. Learn poses to isolate each muscle group individually, and while stretching that muscle group, set an egg timer, the stopwatch on your phone, or the timer on your microwave to 3 minutes. The truth is you can accomplish the correct amount of hyperextension of your muscles in less than this amount of time, but that should be your absolute limit for holding a stretch which should involve alternating in circuits of hard intensity and soft intensity. After you have spent a maximum of 3 minutes (which should be reduced as you become more familiar and proficient with your stretches) on each muscle group, you should attempt to reach your current maximum extension in each type of split you are working on (front split, straddle split, pancake split, Y scale, needle scale, wall oversplit, et cetera) while your timer is set to about 45 seconds. Give yourself 20 intense seconds, then a few seconds break, then try to go deeper into the split, abandoning the pose when your timer has signaled.
Be certain you are taking every effort to keep your splits symmetrical - anything you do to one side must be done to the other.
In summary, stretching frequently, intensely, and for long periods will not work for your body unless you are a cross-country athlete. For those of us who are not training for triathalons, it will result in a reduction of flexibility. I hope I have made myself perfectly clear. In case I haven't, stretching too frequently, too intensely, or too long will result in pain, injuries, and major flexibility losses.