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5 Stretches to Never Do Again

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    Hurdler Stretch

    You might remember this one-leg-in-front-one-leg-bent-behind stretch from middle school gym class—and the knee pain that followed. Here's why it hurt: Bending the non-stretched leg behind your body places a great deal of stress on the stabilizing structures of the knee, Richey says.

    Try this instead: Open-Air Stretch

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    Sit and Reach Stretch

    The sitting part is where there's a real potential for trouble with this leg lengthener. "It's easy to try to compensate for stiff hamstrings by rounding the spine (which defeats the purpose)," Richey says. "Plus, the sit and reach also often stretches the nerves behind the knee and into the calves more than the hamstring."

    Try this instead: Bend and Stretch

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    Wall-Supported Calf Stretch

    Depending on the strength of your ligaments and muscles, "bending your foot against a wall might harm your arch and plantar fascia," Richey says.

    Try this instead: Banded Calf Stretch

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    Posterior Deltoid Stretch

    In short, there's really no need for this arm-across-the-chest stretch. "I have never worked with or even seen someone with tightness or overactivity in this muscle," Richey says, and since the goal of stretching is to loosen up taxed muscles, you'd be better served taking that same time to hit another stiff spot.

    Try this instead: Simply skip it!

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    Hip Flexor Stretch

    You'd do this stretch to loosen tight hip flexors. Problem is, having tight flexors probably means you'll do the move wrong—you'll likely arch your lower back and raise one hip, making the stretch, well, less of a stretch.

    Try this instead: Low Lunge Stretch

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    5 Steps to a Safer Stretch

    Follow these five pointers to make any static stretch safer, says Brad Walker, creator of StretchCoach.com.

    1. Assess the area to be stretched. Has it been injured recently? If so, let it recover before fully stretching it again.
    2. Warm up prior to stretching. Perform your flexibility routine at the end of your workout, or if you're doing it as a stand-alone workout, start with a couple minutes of walking, jumping jacks or other heart-pumping activity. This increases the temperature of muscles to ensure they are supple and pliable.
    3. Stretch gently and slowly, and relax into the stretch. Avoid bouncing and quick, jerky movements.
    4. Only stretch to the point of tension. It should be relaxing, not painful.
    5. Breathe. Holding your breath increases tension, while breathing relaxes the muscles and promotes blood flow (which increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients).