You stretch and stretch and stretch, but you’re not getting more flexible. That’s ok. Here are a few tips you can use to make your stretch routine more productive. Making small changes to your routine can make a big difference in how effective it is!
Don’t Rush The Stretch
It takes time for the body to make an adjustment to a stretch. You wouldn’t do one pushup a day and expect to be able to do 100 pushups eventually, would you? If you only hold a stretch for 10 seconds, it doesn’t provide the body enough stimulus to make it adapt.
You need to be holding your stretches at least 90 seconds! The muscles you’re stretching need time to relax. And your nervous system needs time to adjust and understand that it’s ok for your body to be in that position.
The stretch feeling is caused by your nervous system tensing up your muscles. If you don’t let your nervous system adjust, you’ll never improve your flexibility long-term. Hold that stretch!
The more often you do things, the better at them you will become. Stretching is no different. The more often you stretch, the more stimulus you provide and the more you will convince your body to adapt.
You should be stretching at least every day. But you can do better! Try to stretch a little throughout the day instead of just one big stretch session. You don’t have to spend an hour stretching 3 or 4 times a day to improve.
Instead, try and stretch a little every hour. It’ll keep you from getting tight in the first place. Then you won’t have as much tightness to address before you can really start improving your flexibility. And as a bonus, you’ll feel better throughout the day.
Pick A Few Stretches To Focus On
In keeping with the last point, don’t try and stretch everything every time you stretch. Figure out which areas you want to address the most and focus on stretches for that area.
It’s ok to change focuses daily or weekly, but don’t try and do it all. Pick two or three stretches and do those every time you do your hourly stretches. You’ll find by focusing on an area several times a day, you’ll make faster improvements.
If you pick 2 stretches and do 90 seconds each side you’re spending about 6 minutes stretching. Or you could just do one of the two stretches every 30 minutes and only spend 3 minutes stretching!
Don’t Force The Stretch
That stretch you feel is there for a reason. It’s not something you need to go to war with. Don’t try and out stretch the stretch. You just risk injury. Get into a position where you feel a light stretch.
Once you find that light stretch just hold the position. If the muscles relax and the feeling subsides, just move a little further into the stretch until you find it again.
Hold that light stretch feeling until you hit your time limit. That’s all there is to it. Just don’t overstretch. You can’t increase flexibility if you’re constantly straining your muscles.
Use Bolsters If Needed
If you’re having a hard time getting into a stretch, it’s totally fine to use cushions to prop yourself up. Sit on them, stand on them, kneel on them. Do what you have to do to get yourself comfortably into the stretch.
As you improve your flexibility, you can reduce the bolster or eliminate it all together. This will increase the stretch and continue to improve your flexibility. Bolsters can be extremely important to avoid forcing a stretch.
Use That Range Of Motion
After you wrap up your stretches and open those joints, move through your new range of motion. If you just spent 10 minutes stretching to open up your hips, do a few deep squats.
By using your muscles with some resistance in your newly acquired range of motion, you’ll strengthen the muscles there and also further cement your neurological changes.
This is an important step in changing flexibility into mobility! The human body is a use it or lose it machine.
Don’t Stretch Before Max Effort Lifts
This one’s important. Don’t stretch before max effort lifts! Opening up your joints and increasing your range of motion is a good thing. But newly opened joints are less stable than your normal range of motion.
This isn’t a big problem with moderate or light effort. But when you’re going to literally load your body to its capacity, you do not want joint instability. You’re increasing the risk of injury by stretching before max effort lifts. Save the stretching for another time.
Go Out And Practice
If you apply these tips to your flexibility practice, you’ll see better improvement in less time. Don’t be shy and stretch often. Melt away all that damage our fixed position lifestyles do.
Got any of your own stretching tips? Share in the comments below.