How long to hold a stretch?

If you are a standard athlete  or anyone who hangs around at the gym you’ll know how long to stretch for. Its a 10-20 second hold of the stretch in your warm up, and maybe you go mad in the  after workout stretch and go for those 30 to 40 seconds hold.

The only problem is , you are wrong!!!

As I’ve already explained, in the first few weeks of a stretching regime, any increase in the range of motion is due to an improvement in Stretch Tolerance. This gives you a transient increase in range of motion, and you’ll probably feel a bit looser. If you use stretching as part of a pain reduction programme, these short stretches will help build your confidence. But, no actual  physical improvement in your muscle extensibility ( you’ve pushed open a rusty door and you are getting used to the grinding and  stretching noise the hinges make)

Holds For 2 Minutes PLUS

Well, now we enter the real world of  full on, proper, big boy stretching, and this comes with spooky therapy words like  “tensegrity” and “mechanotransduction” and the “Thixotropic Effect”, which states the longer a tissue is under load, the more adaptable it will become.   This all leads to the rule of thumb that says if we want to make physical changes to your muscles you need to apply  force to the tissues for around two minutes or more.

This two minute mark is determined as the average time  it takes a cells to recognise the stresses being placed on it.  The longer and more regular the stress, the more the body   goes. “we better adapt to this” .

Dr. Andreo Spina frequently states, “Force is the language of cells.” 

Keep in mind that stretching one time for two minutes will not create a permanent change.  It takes a lot of repeated stimulus over a long period of time to create actual changes to tissues.  This follows the Thixotropic Effect, which states the longer a tissue is under load, the more adaptable it will become.

To put this all in context, jumping straight to 2 minute stretching is a silly idea.  Use that first month to build up. I started with sets: 3 sets of 10 seconds, then 20 seconds, then a week later 30 seconds. We know that first period is building up tolerance, so, “just build up tolerance”

Join our flexibility mailing list