How Much Stretching Is Enough?

Author: Achieve Wellness Staff

Flexibility is defined as the ability to move joints at their full range of motion, and is important for several reasons. Without enough flexibility, daily routines become difficult and, over time, the body begins to compensate leading to improper joint mechanics. Maintaining a flexible body decreases physical pain and prevents injury.

Research suggests that the risk of injury is reduced when people follow a proper flexibility-training routine. Regular flexibility training can also help reduce stress in active muscles and relieve tension in overused areas. Flexibility is also a form of active recovery that improves mental states and helps soothe unstable emotions.
If you find yourself experiencing any of the following, it may be a good indication for the need to begin implementing more flexibility training into your fitness program.

Joint stiffness, poor posture muscle or joint pain, chronic stress, back, shoulder and neck pain
For guidance, I have adopted the concept of FITT for flexibility training, as follows –

Frequency
Generally an 5-10min flexibility routine four to seven days a week is recommended. It is also ideal to conduct flexibility training pre and post workouts.

Intensity
Stretching should never be painful – stretches should be held to a point of slight tension. Proper breathing is highly important to optimize the stretch – practice a big deep inhale with a 1 second pause followed by a slow long exhale with another 1 second pause between breaths.

Time
The length of a stretch depends on both the type of stretch and activity. In general, a flexibility routine should last a minimum of 5 minutes and should target the major muscles groups. At a minimum, static stretches and poses should be held for 30 seconds.

Type
The best flexibility training programs incorporate multiple forms of stretching based on the goals and needs of the person. The timing and the types of stretches utilized should be based on the findings of an evaluation, the goals of the program and when the stretches will be used. The four types of stretching used at Achieve Wellness to accompany self-myofascial release (foam rolling) are static stretching, neural-muscular stretching, active-isolated stretching and dynamic stretching.

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