Readers, we've told you that stretching is bullshit. But apparently some of you are still doing it.
This is disappointing.
However. If you insist on stretching, the least we can do is show you how to do it safely. Or how to not do it unsafely.
Here are five stretches that you should absolutely avoid—despite what your high school coach might have told you!—and what you can do instead.
1. The Hanging Jerk (a.k.a. the Vertebreak)
How it's done: Standing tall and with legs straight, bend forward at the waist and reach toward the floor. When you've bent as low as you possibly can, force your head and shoulders further downward with a series of hard, spastic jerks.
Why you should avoid it: This move can break one or more vertebrae.
Instead, try this: Relax in a comfortable chair with a book and a nice cup of tea.
2. The Lumbar Jack
How it's done: From a standing position, feet together and firmly planted, suddenly and violently whip your upper body around as far as possible while thrusting your arms outward as if you're shoving an imaginary foe or telling someone behind you, "Yo! Back off."
Why you should avoid it: It may "jack up" your lumbar nerves—hence the name—possibly leading to "some loss of function in the hips and legs" and "little or no voluntary control of bowel or bladder."
Instead, try this: Take a walk around your neighborhood.
3. The Socket Popper
How it's done: Standing straight, place one arm behind your head and reach for the opposite shoulder blade; use your free hand on the elbow to coax the arm down until you feel pressure. Continue pressing until the pressure becomes uncomfortable. Keep pressing, gritting your teeth and taking quick, shallow breaths. When you hear a loud popping sound, you'll know you're done.
Why you should avoid it: This move renders one arm useless indefinitely, and in a public setting the popping sound may be mistaken for a gunshot, causing nearby firearms enthusiasts to "return fire" in your direction.
Instead, try this: Play "hooky" from work and treat yourself to a matinee.
4. The Foot Pully-Uppy
How it's done: Standing and bracing yourself on a wall for support, bring one foot up toward your buttocks. Grab the foot and gently pull it closer until you feel pressure in your quadriceps. Hold for a few moments, then repeat with the other leg.
Why you should avoid it: This one just makes you look like a doofus.
Instead, try this: Anything else. Unless you enjoy looking like a doofus.
5. The Forehead Crunch
How it's done: Lean toward a wall, with one foot planted forward and the other behind you and forearms against the wall for support. Draw your head back and then smash it into the wall, repeatedly, to failure. Don't forget to breathe.
Why you should avoid it: Usually results in loss of consciousness, during which passers-by may steal your watch.
Instead, try this: Go for a short run, starting slowly and gradually increasing the pace.