Many of us are guilty of it. The back starts aching or your hamstrings are tight, so you reach over and touch your toes. You want that deep stretch that eases your back pain and tests your flexibility. But the standing toe touch is not as great as it feels. The move is just a small part of a host of back pain confusions. Here are 5 reasons why the toe touch is actually bad for your back.
5 Reasons to Avoid the Standing Toe Touch
Before you bend over and touch your toes, look at why you might want to try a new stretch this time.
1. Your back bears the brunt
The goal, for man, when doing the standing toe touch is to stretch the hamstrings. The lock their knees and bend over to feel the burn in the back of their legs, but the back bears the brunt of this move.
When you go straight to the toe touch from an erect position, most of the stretch is done only at the lower back. Instead of stretching the entire back or the hamstrings, you are forcing the stretch to only an isolated area.
2. Puts pressure on the discs in your back
When doing the toe touch, many push their legs together and lock their knees before bending over. When this occurs, the goal is usually to try and bring the chest to the knees. Again, this forces flexion only in your lower back. As a result, the stretch stresses the discs in your back. This will cause a host of problems in the future, and if you have a back injury, you will put yourself at risk for further injury or aggravation.
3. Your back will accommodate tension
Perhaps you are bending over into the standing toe touch to relieve any tension or non-movement in your back. You think the safest way to get your spine flexible and moving again is to stretch it all the way out, but you are not. You are doing the opposite by forcing only one part of your body to move.
If you are experiencing any tension or immobile areas in your, you aren’t stretching them with the toe touch. In fact, the back will accommodate those areas if you simply dive into the toe touch. Instead of stretching the area, you will likely adjust your technique and movements to avoid pain and discomfort. Sometimes you do this without being conscious of it.
4. Your back is unstable
If you experience frequent back pain and you do touches to relieve the pain, you are avoiding a larger issue – the back pain. Temporary relief is like trying to put a Band-Aid on a broken bone. You may hide it for a while, but you need to address the real problem before it affects your life and mobility.
When you do the standing toe touch, you aren’t doing your back any favors. Your back needs stability, strength, and lengthening. The toe touch does not accomplish any one of the three. Instead, you are just elongating the nerves in the back, simply turning off the fire alarm of the danger, instead of fixing the actual fire.
5. Stretching before can leave you more vulnerable during your workout
Perhaps it was gym class that instilled this idea in us, or maybe some of the old workout videos in your closet. No, static stretching before your workout does not increase your performance or reduce injury. It may actually do the opposite. Static stretching before you perform or work out does a couple things: reduces your mobility during your workout, and prevents you from achieving maximum strength, and it increases risk for injury. If you didn’t have a bad back before, you could be asking for one now.