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March 22, 2019

This is how long you should be holding a stretch

Some experts believe two to three seconds is fine, while others support the more traditional minute

Fitness Muscles
how long to hold a stretch Matthew LeJune/Unsplash

Engrained in us since middle school sports is the need a stretch before and after every workout.

The days when your basketball team would circle up mid-court for a series full-body stretches, held for at least 10 seconds each, feels just like yesterday.

So much so, that you still hold your stretches for about that long.

Men’s Health notes that:

Improved flexibility, injury reduction and increased performance are just some of the benefits that can accompany regular post-workout static stretching, or getting a muscle into a stretched position and holding it.

RELATED READ: This is the hard truth about ab crunches

The thing is, that 10-count is more than triple the time you actually need to hold a stretch the reap the benefits, according to some experts.

Stretch*d, a studio in New York City dedicated to stretching, uses a technique that involves "holding individual stretches for two to three seconds each, then repeating up to 10 times in one step," Well and Good reports, with an explainer from Jeff Brannigan, Stretch*d’s director of programming: 

“The repetitive motion uses something called reciprocal inhibition, which requires a contraction of one muscle group so the opposite — and the targeted muscles for the stretch — can relax,” says Brannigan. For example, if you want to stretch your hamstring, you should engage your opposite muscle group, which is the quadricep, so that the hamstring can relax. “The repetitions help build circulation, which is why this type of stretching can be done both before and after a workout. Post-workout, it helps flush out metabolic waste therefore speeding up recovery.” 

Of course, there are other opinions regarding how long stretches should be held for optimal muscle health and safety.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends healthy adults spend at least two days a week “completing a series of flexibility exercises for each of the major muscle-tendon groups,” for a total of 60 seconds per exercise. How you achieve that 60 seconds doesn’t really matter; you could complete three rounds of 20-second holds to achieve a minute of total stretching per muscle group.

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