Stretching, like resistance training, is specific to the muscle groups and joints that are stretched. Thus, it is important to target all the major muscle groups. A stretching routine should be completed after a thorough warm-up of at least 5 minutes or after a cardiorespiratory or resistance training session. Increasing the temperature of the muscle increases its ability to stretch. Warm muscles have a greater elastic response than cold muscles do. The FITT-VP principle can be applied to your flexibility program, including the frequency, intensity, time, type, volume, and pattern of stretching activities. Also Read: Safety Measures While Performing Strength Training
To improve flexibility, perform flexibility exercises at least two to three days per week for a minimum of 10 minutes. Note that this is considered a minimum; stretching on a daily basis as part of a warm-up or cool-down is effective in improving range of motion.
The question of how far to stretch (i.e., the intensity of the stretch) is a common one. Typically, stretching exercises are done to the point of mild tightness without discomfort within the range of motion of the joint(s). If a given stretch creates discomfort, release slightly—a stretch should not be painful. Over time, you may be able to move the joint farther as your flexibility improves, but the stretch should never cause pain. If it does, back off slightly.
You should hold a single flexibility exercise for 10 to 30 seconds. In general, longer hold times have not been found to provide additional benefits for improving joint range of motion. However, older adults may benefit from holding the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
Type of Stretching
Two of the most common methods of stretching to improve flexibility are static and dynamic. Both methods involve moving a joint or joints to the end of the range of motion. With static stretching, the position is held, whereas dynamic stretching involves continuous movement of the joint(s). Static stretching is more commonly used after an activity because some activities requiring strength, power, or endurance may be impaired by static stretching before the activity. Dynamic stretching can be done before activity, following a general warm-up of the muscles. Also Read: Benefits of Strength Training
Static stretching is undoubtedly the most common method used to improve flexibility. This consists of slowly moving a joint to the point at which you feel tension and then holding that stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Remember, do not place your joints in any position that causes pain. As you hold the stretch, the tension should lessen as the muscle lengthens. Each static stretch should be repeated two to four times to accumulate 60 seconds per stretch.
Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body through a full range of motion while gradually increasing the reach and speed of the movement in a controlled manner. An example of this is arm circles; you begin with small, slow circles and gradually progress to larger and faster circles until you reach the full range of motion of the shoulder joint. Many people think dynamic stretching involves bouncing or jerking motions—it does not! The goal is to move the joint in a controlled manner within a normal range of motion in order to minimize the risk of injury.
To avoid the muscle soreness that often results from novel movements, introduce dynamic stretches into your stretching program gradually, particularly if you are not accustomed to this type of stretching. Dynamic movements are typically repeated 5 to 12 times within a time
frame that varies depending on the motion (approximately 30 to 60 seconds).
Should you perform static or dynamic stretches before or after a workout?
You may want to perform dynamic stretching before the workout, as these activities encourage large movements that raise the heart rate and increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Incorporating a dynamic warm-up has the potential to reduce injury as well as to prepare the body for the upcoming workout. But don’t forget the static stretches following the workout. The musculoskeletal system is warm
and ready for these lengthening exercises.
Volume and Pattern
In order to improve joint range of motion over time, a total of 60 seconds of flexibility exercise per joint is recommended. This is accomplished by repeating shorter duration stretches, for example, repeating a 30-second stretch twice or repeating a 15-second stretch four times. Typically a body-wide stretching routine can be completed in less than 10 minutes per session.