Stretching has an array of benefits to the physical body but also for your mental wellbeing, making it a very valuable addition to your routine. Getting started can raise some more questions as you move through.
You may be holding a stretch wondering, how long you should hold it for, what stretch targets what area, when the best time to stretch is, how you can get more out of a particular hold etc.
This article is going to take a closer look at the benefits of stretching and creating a routine that suits you.
How long should you hold a stretch?
Between 10 seconds to 3 minutes depending on your intention.
Dynamic (or active) stretching uses movement to lengthen muscles and get your blood flowing (usually as part of a warm-up to prime your muscles for load). Static stretches are held for a set time, which can be held for up to 3 minutes at a time.
If you go into a stretch and get the feeling that you want to release immediately, it may be a sign that you need to spend some more time stretching this area and you will want to ease your way into it. If you can bear it, go ahead and hold the stretch for 45 seconds to a minute. Be sure to give your body time to relax into the position to help your brain catch up and realise that it is not going to hurt. You may experience some muscle spasming or pinching in the beginning but this is normal , especially if you are not used to stretching.
Holding a position for up to 3 minutes would be suggested for anyone who has an area of the body you’re working to open due to tightness, an injury, or to achieve an intense goal, such as the full splits.
However it’s important to know your limits and to be aware if you have helped a stretch for too long which may result in overstretching or pain to come out of the stretch. Don’t go bouncing into a stretch, this can cause further tightness or injury. Something to remember: you should not feel sore the following day from stretching so if you ever do, then you know you have done too much.
Start where you are with the range you have and work from there.
When is the best time to stretch ?
It’s a good time to stretch your muscles when you are already warm , so either after your warm-up or workout as part of a cooldown or try to incorporate some gentle movements/flow before holding a stretch over the 30 second mark. Stretching and the benefits you receive from stretching is dependent on many things, one being the time of day. Usually your muscles are warm and feel a little more loose by the end of the end so you may notice a difference in your flexibility from an evening stretch to a morning one.
How often Should you stretch?
So long as you’re not overdoing it with the holds or length of time spent stretching , the more regularly you can incorporate some stretching the better. It is more beneficial to spend a short time stretching every day or almost every day than it is to spend a long time stretching once per week. Think about the flow and movement of your body after each stretch and how that can be felt on a regular basis.
So, our suggestion would be to do a 20-30 minute stretch 2 times per week and on days you’re pressed for time try to incorporate even just 5 minutes.
What are the benefits of stretching?
- Increase flexibility
- Allows you to go about your daily activities with less stress/effort
- Perform better during your workouts/sport
- Reduce change of injury
- Help build stronger muscles as a by-product of properly priming your muscles for your workouts
- Boost blood flow
- Helps to create balance and alignment in the body
- Enhances mood and mental well-being
- Encourages recovery
Some of our favourite beginners stretches
– For back, torso and hips
Start by coming down to the floor and setting up in table top position (shoulders over wrists and hips setting over your knees). With a big inhale take your gaze upward, dropping you chest then on an exhale curve your spine to the sky and tuck your pelvis in.
– For back hips and side body
Start by coming down to the floor taking your knees out wide and toes inward. Sit your hips back into your heels and allow gravity to settle your back down into the stretch.
Interlaced fingers chest opener
– For chest and shoulders
Standing or kneeling, with your shoulders rolled back and proud chest interlace your finger behind your back. Holding here may be enough or if you feel the space to increase the stretch just slowly lift those hands upward.
Standing hamstring stretch
– For hamstrings (back of legs)
Place your heel up on a bench or chair with your toes pointing towards the sky and hinging at the hips only, gently lean into the stretch.
Stretching can benefit your mental well-being and physical health. Regular stretching helps to improve flexibility and as a results help to improve performance, recovery and range of motion decreasing the risk of injury. Incorporating even just 5 minutes each day will have you reaping some benefits.