The Dos and Don'ts of Stretching, From the Experts Behind XB Stretch

The Dos and Don'ts of Stretching, From the Experts Behind XB Stretch

When it comes to making the most out of Xtend BarreXB Pilates, or any other Openfit workout programs, don’t slouch on stretching! It’s crucial to increase mobility, protect your joints, and get muscles prepped for work — and that means stretching the right way.

The easiest (and most enjoyable) way to work stretching into your workout routine is with our new XB Stretch program, with routines that take just 5 to 15 minutes. Designed by Andrea Rogers (creator of our other XB programs), XB Stretch is a quick and easy way to help prevent injury, combat aches and pains, reduce stress, and just feel good!

Need a quick refresher to unwind and relax? Get to stretching with Andrea Rogers in XB Stretch here for free!

 

XB Stretch Dos and Don’ts

When it comes to stretching, there are a few dos and don’ts that can ensure your sessions leave you feeling good and not, well, overstretched. We asked Jen Cordiner, Director of Training and Creative Coordinator at Xtend Barre, to give us XB-approved tips for getting a good stretch (outside of Andrea’s expertly guided sessions).

Whether you’re doing an XB Stretch session or a few full-body stretches on your own, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Keep your core engaged.
  2. Focus on releasing tension.
  3. Don’t hold your breath.
  4. If you feel like you’re doing too much, you probably are.

As you stretch, stay aware and mindful of how you’re moving, and you’ll have a powerful addition to your Xtend Barre and XB Pilates practices.

Cordiner offered up some dos and don’ts for four classic, simple stretches that Andrea includes in the program. Although they look easy, doing stretches incorrectly can cause strain and even set you up for injury later, so follow her tips.

 

1. Prone Extension

prone extension dos and don'ts | xb stretch

Similar to cobra pose, the prone extension provides a great counterbalance to core work, since it can loosen up muscles that may have just been crunched and worked. It’s also an ideal warm-up stretch if you’ve been working at a computer or a desk for a few hours before your workout.

Do: Engage your core, press your palms into your mat while relaxing your shoulders away from your ears, and keep your gaze slightly forward, so your head is in line with your spine.

Don’t: Crunch or tense up your neck and shoulders. And don’t lift your chin too high, since this can cause sinking in the lower back.

“Keep the abdominal wall engaged, and think of lengthening up and out slightly,” says Cordiner. “Think of lengthening out and up to lift, rather than arching the low back to lift up.”

 

2. Elevated Hip Stretch

elevated hip stretch dos and don'ts | xb stretch

When you sit for too long — hello, back-to-back Zoom calls — the muscles in your hips can shorten and get tight, making it tough to get your mobility back for a decent workout. This stretch (that’s like the stretchy version of a Bulgarian split squat) can help as a warm-up, and it also keeps your hips open after you exercise.

Do: Keep your ribs “knit” in close rather than arching your back. Keep your gaze forward with your head in neutral alignment, and maintain a posterior tilt.

Don’t: Splay the ribs or release your abs, since this will cause strain in the lower back. Watch your knee alignment and don’t let your front knee come out past the ankle.

“Maintain neutral body alignment, while bending your back knee and tilting the pelvis under slightly to stretch the front of your thigh and hip flexor,” says Cordiner.

 

3. Standing Quad Stretch

standing quad stretch dos and don'ts | xb stretch

Especially with Xtend Barre, leg work can be intense — that’s part of the fun. To make the most of your workouts, ensure your quad muscles are warmed and ready beforehand and cooled down properly, with stretches like this one.

Do: Keep your shoulders over your hips with the abs engaged and ribs knit. Keep your shoulders relaxed and pull your leg back until you feel the stretch.

Don’t: Release your core, which causes your ribs to splay and your back to arch. Don’t pull your foot and knee too far away from the standing leg.

“Maintain a soft bend in your supporting leg while keeping a knee-to-knee connection,” says Cordiner. “Keeping ribs knit and abs engaged, gently pull your leg back to stretch both the hip flexor and quad. If you are feeling it in your knee, then you’re going too far.”

 

4. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

cross body shoulder stretch dos and don'ts | xb stretch

Even if you’re doing mainly lower-body work, your shoulders need to be properly stretched. That’s essential to getting your whole body ready to exercise, and this stretch also makes a great cool-down move.

Do: Keep your hips and shoulders square, keep your shoulders relaxed and keep your knees softly bent. Focus on stretching your shoulder rather than pulling on your arm.

Don’t: Hold your elbow joint since that creates pressure on that area, and don’t tense up your shoulder or lock out your legs.

“Holding just below the elbow at your forearm, instead of the joint, gently pull your arm across the body while keeping shoulders relaxed away from the ears,” says Cordiner. “Maintain your breath while releasing tension in the shoulders.”

Elizabeth Millard

About

Elizabeth Millard has written for Men's Health, SELF, Prevention, Runner's World, and several other health and wellness publications. Based in Northern Minnesota (yes, it's just as cold as you've heard), she's also a rock climber, obstacle course enthusiast, and registered yoga teacher. Follow her on Twitter.