How Long To Hold A Stretch and It's Not 30 Seconds
First things first. Holding a stretch is not about a number. It’s not a count. It’s a relationship you form with your body that helps you increase your flexibility over time.
Conventional wisdom says you should hold a stretch for 30 seconds. Other sources say 60. But what good is holding a stretch if your body is not 1) set up properly, and 2) relaxed enough to actually stretch it?
So rather than think about timing your stretch, you will get much better results if you tune into how your muscles feel, and then respond to them. Like all good relationships, it’s a give and take. 😉
Part of understanding how a muscle is responding to being pulled on is to appreciate that more often than not, traditional stretching only targets superficial muscles, and typically, just the middle, or belly (not the ends).
With this in mind, there are two simple things you can do to retrain your body to net better flexibility results.
First is control. You have to use your muscles to hold them in place before you start moving into a stretch because as soon as you start moving, a tight muscle just gets shorter, not longer. It collapses. That is, unless you pin one end down so that when you move, you are actually elongating your muscles from each end.
Second, is releasing not just the muscle being stretched, but all the other muscles that are going to contract when you get “stuck,” and are unable to go any farther. Breathing is the key here. When your body feels the pull on a tight muscle, invariably, tension goes somewhere else. That tension, and those contracted muscles will 100% prevent the stretch. So, you want to release, but specifically, to wherever your body is inclined to grip, use each exhale to help you let it go, one part at a time. Once you scan your whole body and relax/release everything around your target stretch, what you are stretching will stretch more.
You may also enjoy reading, Why Everything You've Been Told About Stretching Is Wrong.
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