Even if you never miss a stretch after your workout session, chances are you may not hold the stretch long enough. Whether it’s a dynamic stretch or static stretch, not holding a stretch enough means you won’t reap the full benefits of stretching.
Usually, we don’t know how long to hold a stretch unless you are a gym expert, or you have a personal trainer. Thankfully, we’re here to help!
The benefits of stretching are numerous. However, the only way to make sure you reap all the benefits of a stretching exercise is by holding long enough, stretching regularly, and at the best time. Wondering how long to hold a stretch, how often, and the best time to stretch? Read on to find out.
Although there is no exact amount of time to hold a stretch, you should generally hold anywhere between 10 seconds to 3 minutes. Dynamic stretching is low-intensity and mimics the movements of the exercise you want to carry out. Static stretching involves holding the stretch for some amount of time.
Holding a stretch helps lengthen your muscles in a given muscle group, but overdoing it can lead to muscle injury. It’s normal to feel like releasing a few seconds after holding when you’re a beginner, as you likely have a lot of muscle tightness and muscle tension.
Your stretch reflex will want you to stop to protect the muscle or avoid unfamiliar muscle contraction. However, your muscles will loosen and start getting used to it after regularly completing a stretching routine. You can aim to hold for 10 seconds then gradually increase the time as you perfect your stretching technique.
While holding a stretch for 20 seconds before a workout does not impair health, holding for longer reduces your strength and destabilizes your joints. You’ll need all the strength for the workout. Even if stretching improves mobility and flexibility, avoid stretching excessively before exercising.
While you are doing your body and muscles a favor by stretching out a tight muscle, knowing your limits ensures you don’t injure yourself. Ensure you’re not holding the stretch for too long. Listening to your body helps you determine whether you’re crossing your limits with any given flexibility exercise.
How will you know?
Any time you have overstretched or held on longer than you were supposed to, the stretch might be painful. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable or mild tension when holding, but any form of pain indicates either you’ve held for long, overstretched, or you’re doing it wrong.
For starters, don’t aim to hold for 1 minute the first time. You’re not yet flexible, and your muscles are tense. If you have other existing injuries, take the stretches slowly.
You should stretch as regularly as you can if you’re not overdoing it. Stretching for a few minutes every day is better than stretching for longer, once a week. If you plan to perform cardio, bodyweight workout, or exercise, you can perform dynamic stretching before exercising to warm up your body.
Also, remember to stretch every time after working out to reduce post-workout muscle soreness and pain.
The ideal time can vary from one person to another, but generally, mornings and evenings are an excellent time to stretch. When we sleep, our tendons and muscle fibers stiffen due to inactivity. Older people have reduced levels of synovial fluids in their joints, and the cartilage tends to dry up as we grow older.
Your body revs in the morning after a night of rest, a perfect time to reduce joint stiffness through stretching and get your body running for the day ahead. After a long day, the body unwinds in the evening; stretching during this time helps relax the muscles and realign your muscular-skeletal system.
Some people make stretching mistakes because of myths they’ve heard before, such as you should push yourself to the limit for quicker results. Knowing what not to do can help you avoid the common mistakes and perhaps prevent you from injuring your muscles.
Here are some of the stretching mistakes you should avoid:
Regular stretching helps lengthen and relax your muscles. This helps increase your flexibility as well as mobility. If you suffer from back pains, stretching can help relieve the pain. You will lower the risk of injuries when exercising, do your activities with ease, and generally feel more energized and relaxed.
Stretching after an intense workout helps you avoid workout-related pain. It increases blood flow to your muscles, allowing you to heal quickly. Additionally, improved blood circulation helps prevent soreness and pain in the muscles.
Dynamic stretching before a workout acts as a warm-up for your joints, tendons, and muscles. It eases the stiffness, increasing your range of motion temporarily.
Especially when paired with deep breathing, stretching can help you relax and clear your mind. The increase in blood circulation increases the amount of oxygen going into your body and the brain, leaving you feeling relaxed.
If your muscles are tight, they can lead to poor posture, especially chest muscles, back, and hip muscles. If you spend most of your time sitting with your head down and shoulders rounded like in front of a screen, stretching can help you avoid tight and stiff muscles from poor posture.
Poor posture on your upper back can result in back pains. Tight hip muscles and hamstrings also lead to back pains. Stretching these muscles can help decrease the pain significantly.
You should not hold a stretch for too long until it hurts. Stretching should only produce mild tension but not pain.
If you are planning on working out, perform dynamic stretches instead of static stretches. Additionally, you can stretch in the mornings or evenings, whichever time is ideal for you. Just remember not to overstretch or hold your breath whenever you’re stretching.