Whether you work at a desk job and need to untwist those tight spots, you want to maximize your workout sessions or you’re preparing for the upcoming marathon season—stretching is essential to melt away muscle tension. But even if you remember to stretch before or after your workout—there's a good chance you're not holding it as long as you should be or at the optimum time.
While recommendations vary depending on your workout goals (releasing muscle tightness v achieving greater flexibility), on what type of stretching you’re doing (for example, static v dynamic)—the general consensus suggests holding a stretch for a minimum of 20-seconds and somewhere between 35 and 45 seconds. In terms of what kind of stretching to do, here are our suggestions based on your wellness goals and exercise of choice:
To Increase Flexibility & Unwind Tight Spots From Too-Much Sitting
If you're looking to improve flexibility or increase your range of motion, static stretching—the kind of stretching where you hold a stretched muscle for an extended duration—should be your go-to style. Ideally, after a muscle has been warmed up with a few minutes of light exercise or foam rolling —take your muscle to the point of a stretch that is uncomfortable, but not painful, and hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Think hamstring, glutes, quadriceps, low-back, triceps, and calves, and aim to do the same stretch two to four times per muscle group.
To Maximise the Efficiency of Your Sweat Sessions
While static stretching is great for flexibility and post-workout recovery, pre-workout stretches if you’re working out should be dynamic—in other words: involving movement. According to a study published by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, dynamic stretches improve your performance and avoid over-stretching your muscles before insisting they run, jump and lift. Incorporate stretches like hip circles (20 reps), arm circles (20 reps), leg pendulums (swing forward and backward 5–10 times each side), and arm swings (5 times each side).
For Runners Preparing for the Upcoming Marathon Season
Dynamic stretching is also considered best for athletes who do a lot of running—like those of you preparing for marathon season or simply soaking up the buzz to improve your running performance. Ideally, swap stretching pre-run with dynamic warm-up activities like a hip-flexor warm-up and leg extension movements. Once your run is done, incorporate some dynamic stretches (since now your muscles have warmed up) hold for 35-45 seconds, and repeat once or twice on each leg.
Whether you want to feel good at work, while taking a yoga class, lifting weights, or preparing to run a marathon—prevent being taken out of the game by proactively stretching, taking the time to warm up and prepare your body, and ease into reaching your ultimate health and fitness aspirations.