2 Ways to Stretch on a Daily Basis

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Static stretching can be useful to increase joint range of motion (ROM), but in order for it to truly take effect, you must stretch often. How often? Well, research indicates that daily stretching is best, and if you can do it multiple times a day, the results are even better.

In a study conducted by Cipriani et al., 2012, four different stretching protocols were tested:

  1. daily stretching, twice each day (S14 group)
  2. daily stretching, once each day (S7 group)
  3. 3-4 days per week of stretching, twice each day (S6 group)
  4. 3-4 days per week of stretching, once each day (S3 group)

A standing one-legged hamstring stretch was used for the study. The stretch position was held at a point of discomfort for 30 seconds, followed by a 10-second rest, and then the stretch was repeated again at the same intensity for another 30 seconds. The total stretch time each session was one minute. After four weeks, the S14 group that stretched 14 minutes per week improved mean hip ROM by 26.5% compared to 16.8% for the S3 group that stretched 3-4 minutes per week. The other two groups hovered around 24% improvement in mean hip ROM.

By the way, the study above used an open-chain stretch. A more effective option for the hamstrings is a closed-chain stretch as demonstrated in the video below.

When it comes to stretching, frequency of exposure is important. The problem, of course, is that people barely have enough time to exercise so asking them to stretch on top of that is unlikely. Fortunately, there are two simple ways to make it happen on a regular basis:

  1. Stretch while watching television. The average North American watches nearly five hours of television a day. If you spend just one out of those 300 minutes to stretch every day, you'd notice a significant improvement in flexibility by the end of the month. If you're feeling truly adventurous and decide to do two minutes or more, look out! Do your stretching during commercials and it won't effect any "quality" viewing time!
  2. Stretch while exercising. Most experts agree that exercise should be conducted 3-4 days per week for optimal results. If you spend only a minute or so during your warm-up to stretch a specific muscle, a minimum effect will be achieved by the end of the week. To really boost results, stretch that muscle between work sets, just make sure that it doesn't affect the muscles that you're training. If you have tight calves, for instance, stretch them between sets of bench presses or arm curls. Before you know it, you'll accumulate many minutes of stretching by the end of the week.

Try those suggestions over the next month. Pick a muscle that has limited ROM and feels "tight" and concentrate on it for a good month. Make sure to measure your ROM before and after that period to see how well you've improved.

To your success,

John Paul Catanzaro

Related: Flexibility 101: The Do's and Don'ts of Stretching
Related: Quad and Psoas Stretches

Posted Jan 22, 2015

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