Every athlete should have a stretching routine that forms part of their workout plans.
But I often see people make mistakes when it comes to balancing active stretching with static stretches.
The biggest mistakes usually come with static stretching.
I teamed up with a physical therapist to get some information on how she helps patients approach stretching for flexibility and injury and soreness prevention.
Here’s what you need to know.
How Long Is It Safe To Hold Stretches?
The following are some guidelines you should follow for stretches that you do on all muscle groups.
It really doesn’t matter whether you’re due to exercise your legs or chest muscles.
In order to reduce your chance of injury and make the best of your workout movements, it’s time to get your body into an awkward position.
You should hold the stretch in each muscle group for as long as it is comfortable or a maximum of 60 seconds, which is a general rule of the thumb.
My physio friend gave me access to a few interesting studies with results that confirmed 1 minute to be a good threshold .
The more uncomfortable it is for you to hold the position of a static stretch, the better indication it is that you lack flexibility there.
The longer you can hold the stretch at that site, and the number of repetitions will both have positive effects.
Many people who head for a training session to the gym seem to be in a rush to get their muscles working.
They might still do the right body stretching on each muscle, but they don’t get the full benefits when they rush it without purpose.
Instead, shake out your limbs and give your back a chance to relax before you get into the next static stretching.
Don’t Push Your Body Too Far
No matter what muscle-tendon groups you’re working on, don’t push yourself beyond a pain barrier to force a longer range of motion.
It’ll guarantee you an expensive trip for treatment by the physio service and could keep you away from exercise for quite some time.
Instead, repeat the stretching exercise a few more times per week to improve how your body reacts.
Slow is the name of the game, just like with general health and fitness.
When Is The Best Time To Stretch?
There are two specific times that research indicates are best suited to stretching.
Part Of Warm-Up Routine
You should warm up your muscles before every workout and exercise class.
That should be a low-impact movement of the body to get the blood flowing in all aspects of your body parts, from your ankles, calves, through hamstrings and glutes, and to your chest and quads.
Once your muscles are warm, give them a stretch all the way from your hamstring and through your back to the tendons in your hands.
Part Of Recovery Time
Flexibility exercises are great for a post-workout cool down as well as your rest days.
Personally, I’ve started a habit to de-stress my body on a rest day with products like a foam roller and light stretching.
Not only does it help with my range of motion, but it can give you a mental health benefit as well.
Read More: 4 Types Of Pre-Workout Stretches
Health And Workout Benefits Of Regular Stretching
Every time you stretch your limbs, torso, and back, you gain significant health benefits. And not all of them might be obvious.
1. Increase Flexibility
The safe range of motion plays a key role in sports and for a gym workout session.
It’s the main goal, and after a few weeks of stretching more regularly, my clients always comment on how much further they can open the shoulder joint or hips without getting any sharp pain or struggling with muscle tension or stiffness.
I’ve seen many folks make a big difference in their workout regimen, with the only addition being a dedicated routine of different stretches.
2. Improve Circulation
Even if you don’t get yourself into an advanced yoga pose , the most common stretches will get you to a point where your blood flow increases.
It’s not that your heart rate goes up, but with the stretching and contraction of muscle tissue, your blood can flow more freely.
And when you follow the advice to take deep breaths, you’ll increase the amount of oxygen flowing as well.
Picture an image of a battery being charged, and you can see how the improved circulation can help everyone be better prepared for a series of intense workouts.
3. Speed Up Recovery
Stretching plays a vital role in response to post-workout recovery times.
I find it’s a combination of mental and physical wellness. With your mind relaxing and a reduced risk of injuries, it’s like you gain a clear path to your goals.
I also find that a good rest day stretch helps me access better endurance in my next gym activities.
“Stretching is an important step for preparing your body for a workout or cooling it down afterward. It helps to keep the “muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints.” - OneGreenPlanet.org.
Can You Hold a Stretch for Too Long?
Yes, you can hold stretches for too long. The result can be pain and discomfort that lasts longer than the stretch and even damage muscle fibers. Based on advice from experts, it’s generally best to avoid holding it for more than 60 seconds.
Is It Ok to Stretch Every Day?
Yes, it’s OK to stretch every day. Athletes can gain a lot more mobility in their hips and all other joints that they focus on, improving their overall health, well-being, and athletic performance.
How Often Do You Like To Stretch?
Experts indicate that all the health information available from studies shows that when adults regularly stretch every area of their body, they’ll speed up recovery phases.
As a personal trainer, I see many clients gain more motivation from stretching because they see that their muscles are strengthening faster while doing the same gym activity.
Use the above guide for your upcoming workouts and see how much of a difference they will make.
And make sure you report back after one or two weeks to let us know what your experience was.