Stretching: How long and how often to stretch to maintain or increase flexibility

Stretching: How long and how often to stretch to maintain or increase flexibility

Firstly, I would like to ask you: when you stretch, what structures are you stretching, why are you stretching and how are you stretching?

Muscles and connective tissue are safe structures to stretch. Joint capsules and ligaments are not. If you stretch joint capsules and ligaments, you will decrease the stability of the joint. This means the muscles around your joint will have to work much harder to stabilise it.

Reasons for stretching:

• Increase the flexibility of muscles and their connective tissue eg fascia and hence joint ROM
• Decrease neural tension
• Help address malalignment issues in the body
• Release muscle spasm
• Release scar tissue adhesions/restrictions
• Balance out strength and conditioning work with releases to maintain flexibility as well as stability

What do you need to do to increase flexibility?

To increase flexibility you need to deform the connective tissue therefore, according to most studies they recommend stretching after activity when the muscles and connective tissue are already warm.

How long do hold the stretch? It depends on your mobility. Those of you who are ‘hypermobile’ need only 15 seconds, whilst those who are ‘stiffer’ need 20-30 seconds.

How many times do I need to stretch in a week?

3-5 times

What do you need to do to maintain flexibility and joint range of motion?

Aim for 3-4 reps of 30 sec static stretches.

How many times a week do I need to stretch?

Once

There were no additional benefits gained by doing more than 4 repetitions within a bout of stretch.

Different types of stretches:

• Ballistic stretching
• Static stretching
• Active/Dynamic stretching
• Prolonged stretch
• Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
• Micro-stretching
• Trigger Point Releases
• Fascial stretching
• Neural gliding

The safest ones would be static stretching, active/dynamic stretching, trigger point releases, fascial stretching and neural gliding. Whatever type of stretch you choose to do remember to consider what structures you are putting on stretch. If you are unsure if you are stretching safely or stretching the correct structures, book a consultation with us so we can help guide you so you are stretching safely.

Watch this space to learn more about the importance of shoulder positioning and how it can affect your neck and upper back posture.

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