Are you worried about overstretching your muscles?

Anagha. July 19, 2022

Almost every day in the clinic, and on many occasions each day, I get asked the question “How much should I be stretching my muscles?”, “How do I know if I am overstretching or under stretching my muscles?”

These are all valid questions, and for me, as a Physiotherapist, it’s really important to answer this question for my clients before I send them off on their own. I want them to know the correct way and amount to stretch, as I want the exercises and stretches to help them improve their health. Not enough stretching means that the issue may continue. Too much stretching and I will be seeing them with a new problem.

Stretching is the ability of the muscles or/and tendons to lengthen without causing a tear/break/damage. It is always better to be in the safe range of the muscle extension.

I want you to think of an image. Imagine a thick plastic bag and that you are trying to rip it apart. You will struggle to do this as the bag is strong. If you keep working on it and make it weaker and manage to thin it out, then it will break. This is exactly how a muscle functions as well!

When you limit the stretching on the muscle to an extent that it does not make it weak, then you are safe. The moment you cross this plastic limit, you might damage your muscles!!

Now you must be wondering to yourself, ‘how do I know when I reach this plastic limit?’ If you know how this feels, then you will be able to stop before you do yourself any damage.

When you stretch normally, you feel as if the muscle is being pulled apart, but it shouldn’t be too strenuous. When you overstretch, you feel a sharp, stabbing pain and this is uncomfortable. Believe me, you’ll know if you get to that point and you should stop immediately!

What are the consequences if you tend to overstretch your muscles?

Well, overstretching makes the muscles more lax, and they lose some of their toned quality. This leads to an instability in your joints. The when you overstretch, your muscle fibres, tendons and ligaments are weaker and any minor tears lead to further injuries. Basically, you would do more harm than good, if you do not stretch them right!

Now, the second most common question, “How long should I be holding the stretch?

It is ideally recommended that any stretch should be held for at least 25-30 seconds. This allows the muscle spindles to activate and helps the muscles to stretch to the maximum capacity. Three to five repetitions of each stretch should serve your purpose!

Good Luck !!

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