By Michael Hodgson
For the complete story, see GearTrends® Fitness 2006, p. 20, "Stretching the Imagination"
Though still performed by many gyms and in school programs around the country (those that still have school P.E. programs that is, and don't get us started on that lack) the following exercises can actually cause injury in many general exercisers and should be avoided. Remember, no exercise really is one that no one ever should do, but many are ones that general exercisers – that's most of us -- should avoid. Even some of these below can be done by high-performance athletes or specialists who need to train a certain part of the body for a specific sport or activity endeavor:
Hurdlers -- Sitting with one leg straight out and the other bent back behind you with the inside of the leg down therefore mimicking the position a hurdler is in when going over a hurdle. Unless you are, yes, a hurdler, this can do nothing but strain the back, knee, groin and leg.
Knee Stretch -- Sitting back on your calves with your feet bent back under your glutes. A great way to overtax the knee. There are no muscles in a knee to stretch.
Toe Touch – Standing and leaning over to touch the toes with the legs straight. This can lead to lower back strain; however, some specialty programs such as yoga do similar stretches that, if done by a strong exerciser and done correctly, can be a part of a balanced program. They just aren't for most.
Windmills a.k.a. Alternating Toe Touches – Standing with feet spread wide and with alternating touches of the right hand to the left toe and left hand to right toe. Can cause groin pulls and lower back strain, especially since often done with speed.
Inverted Back Bend -- Lying on the back with legs brought over your head, knees close to face, and toes reaching for the ground behind you. The neck was never designed to support the body's weight. This stretch can cut off blood flow to the brain, increasing risk of stroke, and puts extra pressure on the back, leading to strains. Again, it is done in some specialty program, such as yoga, and with the proper execution, it can be done within limits. However, it is not recommended for most exercisers.
Don't miss the full story, "Stretching the Imagination" in the GearTrends® Fitness 2006 issue. To download the full issue, go to www.geartrends.com/magazines.