Certain stretching can do more harm than good

LOS ANGELES At most any gym or park you might see someone doing fast toe touches or a bouncing straddle stretch - what fitness experts know to be dangerous stretches.

"You see people bouncing up and down trying to force the stretch trying to get a little bit further, when they're actually forcing a tearing effect," said fitness expert Michael Carson.

Carson said ballistic stretching is something many learned back in P.E. class years ago. Its effects might not even be noticeable at the time but can certainly cause a negative effect on the body.

"You're both tearing muscle and causing the connective tissues that attaches to your bone to fray slightly," Carson described.

Whether you're stretching to wake up in the morning or right before an activity, stretching cold is a bad idea.

"I like to think of it like a rubber band that you put in the refrigerator or freezer. You take that rubber band out and try to stretch it. It's not going to have a lot of elasticity," said Carson.

Cold stretches result in injury, and that's not what you want.

Then there are those who stop and stretch right after their warm up thinking they're going to lengthen their muscle and increase their performance - wrong again.

"First of all, it's going to bring your heart rate down. It's going to make your body start to cool down so you want to continue that heated process," said Carson.

That's contradicting the idea you are going for, which is continued warmth and heart rate elevation.

What you do want to do is a dynamic warm up, which includes movements that use many joints and muscles. Carson likes a stretch he calls "the pizza man," which uses the opposite arm and leg. The leg is on the ground pushing down into the floor, while the opposite arm pushes up to open the core.

He also recommends warming the core with rotational movement that allows our whole body to twist, not just the upper half.

"You want to go with nice, dynamic-style movements that simulate activities that would be athletic like golf, like tennis, like basketball," Carson explained.

If you aren't planning a workout but want to stretch, try walking first or trying dynamic movements for about 10 to 15 minutes so that your joints and muscles have the oxygen and blood flow they need to create warmth and circulation.

After you've done that, then it's okay to stretch.

"It's supposed to be relaxing and elongating and opening," Carson said.

Carson said a good stretch is at least 15 seconds, but it's even better if held for at least one minute, complete with deep and relaxing breathing.

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