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  • Writer's pictureSarah Barbosa

Guidelines for Effective Static Stretching


hamstring stretch

If you're looking to improve your mobility, holding a stretch is just one intervention of many you may use to achieve this.


There are many different types of stretching and ways to achieve greater mobility, but in this blog post I will go over static stretching. This is when you take a muscle to a point of a tolerable stretch, and hold it for a duration in time without moving.

What are the benefits of static stretching?

  • Improving your range of motion, which may help to get into certain athletic positions or help you move easier throughout the day

  • Improving posture

  • Promoting relaxation

  • Alleviating muscle tension

  • Possibly reduce the risk of injury


How long should you hold each stretch? How often to perform? According to the ACSM, each stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds and repeated 2-4 times after an active warm up. This routine should be performed at least 2-3 days per week.


When should I perform static stretching? Before or after my workout?

This largely depends on what activity you are performing.

  • If you're doing a sport that requires flexibility, such as gymnastics, static stretching is best performed prior to your practice, but after a short warm up to increase the internal body temperature.

  • If you are a strength athlete, such as a competitive powerlifter or strongman, I would hold off on the static stretching until after the workout and aim for more dynamic movements prior to your lifting session.

  • If you are just looking to get in shape, I'd still recommend aiming for dynamic stretching prior to your workout and static stretching after, if needed/wanted.


When should I NOT perform static stretching?

It is impossible for me to give you a specific recommendation whether you should or should not be stretching without evaluating you, so it's best to seek evaluation first. In general, you shouldn't perform static stretching if:

  • you just injured a muscle (muscle strains)

  • you're about to go for a 1 rep max on a lift or perform any other explosive movement.

  • a muscle that is in spasm

  • you have a neurological condition that results in spastic muscles


Other things to consider:

  • When stretching, make sure to breathe.

  • Only stretch to a tolerable level. Going beyond this point could injure the muscle.



How long will it take to see improvements?

Research on this varies, but in clinical practice I see initial improvements within about 1-2 weeks. However, you will have to stick with this stretching routine until you reach your desired level of flexibility. Once you achieve that, you may be able to start to back off a bit on the volume to maintain it.


Does static stretching actually lengthen my muscles?

This is also not clear in the research. It seems to be that rather than increasing muscle length, stretching improves your tolerance to stretching the muscles.


Static stretching is boring. Are there other ways to achieve better flexibility?

Yes! Static stretching is just one of many interventions you can do. Here are some others:

  • Stretching through resistance training - taking your joints through full range of motion during your exercises (with a weight both you and your joints can handle).

  • Hold-relax/ PNF type stretching



The importance of an individualized approach

It's so easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of stretches out there, plus not knowing what muscles to stretch, when to stretch, and how often to do it.


Your lifestyle has a lot to do with how you need to take care of your body. For instance, if you sit a lot, you may need to do more stretching for your hips.


If you need assistance in a stretching routine, contact Dr. Sarah to set up an appointment for an individualized assessment and game plan to improve your mobility.




References:


American College of Sports Medicine. (2000). ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Philadelphia :Lippincott Williams & Wilkin


Law, R. Y., Harvey, L. A., Nicholas, M. K., Tonkin, L., De Sousa, M., & Finniss, D. G. (2009). Stretch exercises increase tolerance to stretch in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a randomized controlled trial. Physical therapy, 89(10), 1016–1026. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20090056

Page, P. (2012). Current concepts In muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. Int J Sports Phys Ther, 7(1), 109-119. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/



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