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4 Things You Need to Be Thinking About to Ge the Most out of Your Stretching

So often skipped, stretching should be a component of every workout you perform.

You have hundreds of muscles in your body that help you move throughout the day. Over time, those muscles can become tight, or shorten, due to repetitive activities such as sitting at a desk, playing with your kids, or working out. If muscles become tight enough, it can cause pain and inhibit movement and function. Regular stretching, whether you workout or not, can help alleviate that pain or even prevent it.

Stretch When Warm

Dynamic stretches are movements that take your body through a range of motion to prepare it for exercise. Static stretching where you hold a stretch for an extended period of time should be done after exercise when a muscle is warm, and you are finished working it. If you just want to stretch, walk for five to 10 minutes before you stretch to get the most benefit.

How Often You Should Stretch

You should stretch your muscles two to three times each week or after each workout. No, you don't have to do hundreds of stretches — you'd never finish. Instead, you should focus on the muscles you worked that day or the major muscle groups in your body: back, chest, shoulders, arms, torso, thighs, calves and gluts.

How Long

Many people don't hold a stretch long enough to really gain benefit. Each stretch should be held for 15 to 30 seconds minimum to really lengthen the muscle, and train it to hold at that length. Relax into the stretch, and stop when you feel a pulling sensation. There should be no pain, but there may be a little discomfort. If you are holding your breath, you are pushing too far. Keep breathing, and relax with each exhale.

Should You do Multiple Repetitions

The short answer is yes, you should do each stretch more than one time. Ideally, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing each stretch three to five times. However, start with one and increase over time. Do each stretch one time and hold for the proper amount of time. The next week, try two sets and so on. You will feel the benefits quickly when stretching is performed the right way.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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