Did you know when you stretch it isn’t your muscles limiting your range of movement but your nervous system.
Your limits are based on what you brain/nervous system perceives to be unsafe and, in most cases, it is due to years of conditioning. That’s why chairs, couches and toilets have not done us any favours for our deep squat
Once you have stretched to your threshold, your nervous system resists and sends pain signals to stop you moving further in the hopes to avoid injury or damage.
Yes, stretching does improve movement but when you do it, you are actually training your nervous system to tolerate a greater degree of movement.
Stretching can be beneficial depending on your goals. If in order to hit your goal, you need more movement in a specific joint e.g. be able to touch your toes, then stretching can help.
I usually recommend a combination of stretching and strengthening in the desired range of movement. This is more likely to provide longer term improvements. That’s why yoga and Pilates can be a great way to improve movement, you require to sustain positions of stretch holding your bodyweight which is strengthening in the new range.
So, what does the research show;
– Static and PNF are the most effective for increase flexibility
– Stretching for 5 – 10 minutes per week for a ‘specific muscle group’ is most beneficial. More than 10 minutes does not provide much additional benefit.
– 30 to 60 second holds are the most optimal time to benefit ratio for stretching. More than 60 seconds does not add worthwhile improvements.
– Static stretching can reduce strength prior to performance. It’s best to perform ‘dynamic’ rather than ‘static’ stretching prior to activity or sport.
– There is no evidence to suggest that stretching prevents injuries.