We all get stuck in a rut, so it is time to refresh your ideas on stretching. Here are 3 quick steps that should be followed and can be adapted to any stretching program for any muscle:
1. Stretch after warming up, don’t go cold turkey on those muscles
Why the fuss about only stretching after warming up? Have you ever tried taking a fizzer sweet from the fridge and gently break it in two to share with your friend? It doesn’t snap, it shatters like glass. Yet if you warm it up, it can stretch for days. Same goes to say about your muscles and tendons, the risk of snapping is higher on a cold tendon or muscle.
How do I warm up? Gentle repetitive movements through the range of the muscle that you plan on stretching. E.g. Calves: slowly go up and down on your toes starting with only a small lift of the heels. Increase the height after 5-10 reps.
2. Don’t kid yourself, 10 seconds of stretching is a waste of your time
If you are going to take stretching seriously and actually improve your flexibility, then time and repetition are 2 factors you need to make friends with.
Thinking that a stretch any shorter than 20 seconds will help you gain range, is like throwing a cup of water over a fire and expecting it to be extinguished.
If you want to see a change, hold that stretch for at least 30 seconds and repeat it 3-5 times, going a millimeter or two further with each repetition.
3. Your stretching mantra should NOT be no pain, no gain
Pain is our natural warning system that something is out of sorts. So please, don’t override this clever little system with bravery bordering on stupidity.
A stretch is always going to feel uncomfortable but it is not meant to be painful, especially if you follow steps 1 and 2.
Rather work with this stretching mantra…
Gradual gain = Long-term gain.