When Should I Stretch & How Often?

When Should I Stretch & How Often

We recommend stretching all your major muscle groups at least 2-3 times a week. You can stretch any time of the day, be it after you wake up, during your lunch break, or before you sleep at night.

Benefits of stretching

Stretching is important for several reasons. It 

  • Helps improve your flexibility.
  • Increases the range of motion of your joints.
  • Decreases your risk of injuries and joint pain.
  • Reduces joint stiffness by increasing the blood flow to your muscles and joints.
  • Alleviates tension and relaxes your muscles.
  • Helps enhance your performance in various physical activities.

Types of stretches

Static stretches are those in which you move a muscle as much as you can (without feeling any pain) and then hold that position for around 20-45 seconds. Quad stretches, hamstrings stretches, etc. are excellent examples of static stretches.

Dynamic stretches include active movements that help move your joints through their full range of motion and thus improve your speed and agility. Examples of dynamic stretches include walking lunges, hip swings, inchworms, etc.

When should I stretch?

Perform static stretches after your regular workout session to help your body recover and cool down. Practice dynamic stretches before you work out as part of your warm-up routine to prep your muscles for performance.

So does this mean that you shouldn’t perform static stretches before you exercise?

Not quite.

Holding a stretch for more than 1 minute can reduce your ability to produce muscle force by up to 4.6%.  But studies show that if you hold a stretch for less than 45 seconds and practice a few dynamic stretches after these static stretches, you can gain the benefit of the increased range of motion without a dip in performance.

What’s the best time to stretch?

You can stretch any time of the day!

When you stretch first thing in the morning, it can help reduce stiffness and tension from sleeping in a bad position, increase circulation and get your body ready for the day. You could also stretch during your work breaks or before you hit the bed at night to relax your muscles. During these times, just focus on static stretching.

How often should I stretch?

As per the recommendations of the ACSM, you should stretch each of your major muscle groups for 60 seconds per exercise, at least twice a week.

Your major muscle-tendon groups would include - the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, trunk, hips, legs, and ankles. 

Practice stretching exercises, Yoga, or tai-chi postures that focus on your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps as these are the areas that are crucial for mobility.

Tips for safe stretching

  • Warm up your muscles before you stretch to avoid hurting yourself. You could do a 5-min walk or jog in place.
  • Slowly ease into your stretch until you feel mild tension and your muscles feel relaxed. If you feel pain at any point, stop immediately and try again after a break.
  • If it hurts while stretching, it means you’ve gone too far. Avoid overstretching as this can lead to a torn muscle.
  • Practice good form. Also, pay attention to your posture, be it sitting, standing, or lying down.
  • Actively breathe while stretching. Don’t ever hold your breath.
  • Avoid ballistic stretching (bouncing while stretching) as this can result in pulled muscles and muscle tightness. 
  • Avoid static stretches before a high-intensity event such as sprinting, as this has been shown to reduce performance.

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