Does stretching affect flexibility?
Yes. There is conclusive evidence regarding stretching and flexibility. Loss of flexibility can be prevented and at least partially restored by stretching. However, that evidence is more compelling for a long-term stretching program than for shorter periods of time. Stretching to increase flexibility minutes prior to an event may be possible, but a stretching program over a period of months can lead to a sustained increase in range of motion.
Can stretching improve performance?
Yes, if the stretches are designed to be sport specific. One study showed that an increase in the temperature of the vastus lateralis (a muscle in the upper leg) achieved by stretching resulted in an increase in vertical jump and an increase in maximal cycling power. Another study showed that a 10-week static stretching program resulted in improved performance in tests involving speed, strength, power, or muscle endurance. Additional research has shown benefits in throwing a baseball and serving a tennis ball following a stretching program that improved shoulder flexibility.
How long should a stretch be held?
One 15 to 30 second stretch per muscle group is sufficient for most people, but some exercisers require longer stretches as well as more repetitions.
How many times should the same stretch be performed during one session?
As mentioned earlier, some research suggests that one stretch per muscle group is sufficient. However, many professionals recommend two or three repetitions for each 10-second stretch, or one repetition of 30 seconds. The rationale for multiple stretches is that connective tissue responds better to low-force, long-duration stretching than higher-force, short-duration stretches.
Are there any benefits in holding stretches longer than 30 seconds?
There is no evidence that this is the case.
Should stretches be held for the same length of time for each muscle group?
No. Because the stretching properties vary from muscle group to muscle group, the optimal duration of a stretch and the frequency of stretching may also vary from person to person.
What is the stretch reflex?
A stretch reflex occurs when a muscle is first stretched to an extreme. At that point, a nerve impulse signals the muscle to contract. It is a protective mechanism that the body uses to protect muscle tissues from tearing.
Should stretching exercises be the same for healthy athletes and those recovering from injuries?
Injuries affect the stretching properties of muscles. Injured athletes may require stretches to be held longer to increase range of motion.
Does it help to warm up first and then do stretching exercises?
Generally, those who use an active warm-up prior to stretching get greater range of motion than those who only stretch.