There’s something you’re not doing. Or if you are, you’re doing it half-ass. Don’t ask me how I know it, I just do. And not only that, this thing that you’re not currently doing very well (or at all) is the key to not only a drastically improved physique, but life-long health. I’ll cut to the chase; I’m talking about stretching. This isn’t another run-of-the-mill how to stretch article – those have been written about to death. Instead, I’m going to present a little bit of scientific evidence to support the notion that stretching should be equally as vital to your overall exercise routine, as is strength training and cardio work.
Why Should You Stretch
You probably have some idea of how to stretch – but do you know how to stretch to most effectively and efficiently improve flexibility? The answer isn’t as straight-forward as you might think. First off, let’s quickly talk about why we should be stretching. A recent study indicates flexibility is tied to lifespan. Individuals with greater flexibility live longer lives. That seems like reason enough to start stretching, huh?
Secondly, stretching is going to stretch myofascia, allowing your muscles more room to grow. More room to grow means longer and leaner looking muscles. You know, like the kind those yoga ladies have.
How to Stretch
There’s a wide-variety of opinions about the best way to stretch. Instead of throwing another mostly unqualified opinion into the ring, I went directly to the science.
Let’s first talk about how often you should be stretching. A 2009 study examined the frequency of stretching routine on hamstring tightness. Participants characterized as lacking in hamstring flexibilty were placed in three groups; those stretching once, three times, and five times per week.
As expected, flexibility increased in all groups. However what was perhaps most surprising was the fact the group stretching five times per week had no benefit in hamstring flexibility over those stretching three times per week. So remember, stretching isn’t something you need to do everyday, or even most days a week to get benefit. A few times a week is enough to make a serious impact.
So that answers the “how often should I stretch” question. Let’s now tackle the “what kind of stretching should I do”? We turn to a 2013 study to help us answer this question.
In this particular study, researchers examined three types of stretching on passive and active hip flexion. Participants engaged in their assigned flexibility type for a period of 9 weeks, at which point results were measured.
The three types of stretching are the most common personal trainers and other health practitioners often prescribe and tout most – hold and relax stretching, active isolated stretching, and passive static stretching. Significant improvements in active range of motion was observed in those subjects utilizing the passive static stretching. So much improvement that researchers confidently stated:
The results suggest that PSS is the best option for the improvement of both active and passive range of motion.
If you’re going to take the time to stretch, may as well make it the most effective type possible. Learning how to stretch with the passive static stretch is easy. Bend, pull, extend the region targeted, and hold. That’s it. Of course there are specific things to be mindful of for each region you’re working on, but that’s another article for another day.
My goal today was to present you with the evidence for exactly why you should be stretching and let you see learning how to stretch doesn’t take a whole lot of brain power. Three times a week. Bend and hold. Repeat over a variety of body regions for 10-12 minutes in total. That’s it.
If you’ve got any specific questions about how to stretch, why you should stretch, or whatever else comes to mind, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to your shortly.