Flexibility is a passion of mine, as inflexibility can lead to so many issues. The biggest problem I have found is that people don’t stretch enough and don’t hold their stretches long enough.
There are two types of stretching: dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic should be done before your exercise while static stretching occurs after exercise.
Static stretching is where I find the most issues: stretches are not held long enough and are not done frequent enough. Static stretches should be held 20-30 seconds and repeated 3x each side. Getting into a routine of this is where you will see the most benefit.
The goals of static stretching include muscle lengthening, help to improve range of motion, reduce muscle strain injury and reduce muscle soreness post exercise. Other factors contribute to this as well i.e. hydration/foam rolling however we will save that for another blog entry!
Dynamic stretching is a movement based warm up for instance, leg swings, trunk rotations etc. And thus, it does not involve long hold stretches. The goal with a dynamic warm up is to bring blood flow to your muscles before you are about to work them. Commonly, a warm up should mimic some of the movements you expect to do in your activity: if you will be doing squats in your workout, I would do some body weight squats in your warm up.
With my Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) clients, I prescribe a specialized home program of stretching techniques for them to complement their treatment. I find a lot of improvement in range of motion after the third treatment, when paired with the home stretches.
If you are interested in learning more about Fascial Stretch Therapy you can do so on my website.
Take home message: It is hard to stretch too much! Schedule in times for you to stretch throughout your week at home or at the gym: 20-30 second holds, 3 x each stretch. Tip: do it in front of the TV and use a timer!