Benefits of Stretching to Boost Flexibility

By
Updated: April 4, 2021

Benefits of Stretching to Boost Flexibility

by

Mark “Coach Rozy” Roozen

As performance coaches, we talk about how important stretching is all the time.  In “real life” stretching might be one of the most butchered aspects of training there is. Unless you have a coach, trainer or you’re a gym rat, there’s a good chance you do MIGHT do a few bent-over toe touches, a few swing of your arms across your body, shake your legs a few times and call it a job well done!

Unfortunately, haphazard stretching routines like this aren’t doing you much good but that’s the “movement prep” phase for a large number of people – if they even do that!

It’s essential that you first identify the goal of your stretching routine. Are you preparing your body for a workout or are you looking to improve the range of motion you have to get better at your activity, sport or even do better at training?

How long should I hope this stretch?

If you’re looking to improve flexibility -AGAIN, NOT JUST WARM UP TO DO AN ACTIVITY – BUT INCREASE THE RANGE YOU CAN MOVE –  static stretching—the style of stretching where you hold a stretched muscle for an extended duration—should be your go-to style of stretching.

But how long do you actually need to hold a stretch to increase flexibility?

According to experts, it’s best to hold a static stretch for one to two minutes to increase flexibility. 

If you’re looking to get moving, warm-up before you do your activity or sport, that is doing dynamic stretching or warm-ups.  When doing dynamic warm-ups, do the movement, stretch or exercise for 20-30 seconds and you’ll be ok.  Remember, you are just getting the muscle to prepare to work in it’s current range of motion or your basic movement pattern.  You don’t want to OVER STRETCH the muscles during dynamic warm-up.

Here are a few key guidelines for effectively using static stretches:

Avoid long duration stretches before a workout or game

Again, experts and their research has shown that holding a stretch for 20 seconds is effective without impairing strength. However, avoid stretching for longer than this before a workout. “We know that if we have athletes stretch excessively before they go out and train, we’re often destabilizing the joint. So we don’t want to do a lot of prolonged stretching before we do an activity or sport” says Mark Roozen, Coach Rozy.

Coach Rozy explains that you can spend extra time stretching an especially tight area that might affect your exercise form or sports skills. For example, if you have tight hip flexors and plan to run and jump, it’s best to make sure that your hip flexors, psoas and lower back are fully mobilized before a workout to improve your ability to run and jump.

Avoid intense stretch routines 24 hours before a big game

It’s been shown, again by the lab guys that an intense static stretch routine of 15 minutes performed 24 hours before activity is actually worse than doing nothing at all.  This is still being looked at, but instead of high intense stretching, with someone putting you into strange, pretzel like portions, doing more yoga type stretching and dynamic movement for the big event. 

Stretches will be uncomfortable but shouldn’t be painful

Some static stretches are more uncomfortable than others.  This is based on YOUR body, how YOU move and YOUR current state of mobility and flexibility.  That said, a stretch should never be painful. If you experience pain, then back off the stretch until you find an appropriate intensity.  Keep in mind, it MAY be uncomfortable.  You just can’t lay on the couch and tell someone “I’m getting my stretching in for the day” – that’s called a NAP!  You have to put a stretch on the muscles and get it to elongate, put a stretch on it, to see benefits of stretching!

Remember to breathe!

Last but not least, take deep breaths as you hold a static stretch. During exhales, try to slightly increase the level of stretch. As you exhale, your nervous system relaxes and allows for a greater stretch. “What we’re doing—why I’m a big fan of yoga—is working into those positions and breathing and calming the nervous system down and telling it it’s OK,” adds Coach Rozy.  The key is to use Dynamic Warm-Up before an activity or workout to get the muscles warmed up to work in their range of movement they can work through.  Use Static Stretching to improve and gain more range of motion.  When you do – over a period of time – you’ll find that you’ll be able to do more during the dynamic warm-up and get into new, more powerful positions and even help with preventing injury and soreness.

Try it this week during your training sessions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *