Stretching Tips – Optimal Length of Time to Hold a Stretch
In our March Quick Poll we wondered what people thought is the optimal amount of time to hold a stretch if they are trying to gain lasting changes in their flexibility. Many people thought 30-45 seconds was optimal, however Chris and Ann Fredrick in Stretch to Win urge their athletes to stop thinking about the duration and focus more on their breathing and how the stretch feels.
The stretch wave breathing tempo goes from very rapid when warming up down to very slow when focused on restorative stretching. To increase flexibility we need to reach a plastic point in the tissue where it releases and it will stay there. We are trying to actually remold the tissue just like if you were to melt a piece of plastic, reshape it and then let it cool.How long this takes depends on a number of things including, state of hydration, genetics, age, previous flexibility training, other medical conditions (osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s) and how chronic the tightness is. Start with a very slow breath wave, which is 3-5 nice slow-long breaths (maybe longer) and learn to listen (feel) for the release. As you exhale allow your intent to be lengthening; never force a stretch to go further than it wants to on that day.