How Long Should I Stretch For?

The answer to that question will depend on the reason you are stretching. The main reason we stretch is to lengthen a muscle and thus increase range of movement (ROM), but a muscle can become tight or shortened for a number of reasons. Once you discover why you need to stretch, then you can work out how long and what type of stretching you should be doing.

Why are you stretching?

Are your muscles shortened due to habitual postural positioning (such as sitting for long periods) or scar tissue from surgery or an injury; are your muscles tight due to spasm or contractures. Or are you stretching as a warm up or cool down for a particular sport?

 

Types of Stretches

Generally there are three types of stretches static, dynamic and pre-contraction stretching.

  • Static is the most common type of stretching where you hold a position for a set amount of time.
  • Dynamic stretching is active and generally involves taking a limb to end of range multiple times.
  • Pre-contraction stretching involves a type of muscle contraction prior to relaxing the muscle. There are a number of techniques for this. Some of these techniques include Contract Relax, post-isometric relaxation (PIR), and muscle energy techniques.

Which stretch is for me?

General Exercise Program

  • STATIC stretching for 15-30sec, 2-4 reps at least 2-3 times per week.
  • Older adults – there is some evidence to suggest that longer holds of 60sec are required for changes.

Note: Stretching the muscle can reduce the tension that it can exert and therefore may decreased overall strength and possibly performance.

Warm up for Sport

  • STATIC stretching is more beneficial for those sports that require flexibility.
  • DYNAMIC stretching has been shown to increased AROM and have no lose in strength or performance.

Rehabilitation

  • A Muscles strains responds better to STATIC stretching
  • Recovering from an Orthopedic surgery such as total knee replacement will respond to any type of stretching is beneficial.
  • People with chronic muscle pain can see an increase in tolerance to stretching in 3 weeks and a decrease in trigger point pain using the PIR technique
  • Contractures – there is no evidence that stretching improves contractures.
  • Neurological patients – stretching on its own has no benefit for neurological conditions.

Overall stretching will increase your ROM, regardless of the technique. You need to think carefully about why you are stretching and what you are aiming to achieve through stretching. Talking with your physiotherapist can help you optimise your stretching program for your specific issue.

Book an appointment:

Feel like your current stretch program isn’t working for you? Book in for your treatment now with one of our team by calling (07) 3398 9556. Read more about our team here.

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