Stretching is a low-intensity flexibility exercise that can be done on its own, or incorporated with a high-intensity workout. When you are just starting to engage in stretching, it is normal to start with simple exercises and lesser time of holding a stretch. You need to give your body enough time to get familiar with your stretching, and not shock it with longer stretch minutes and extended holds. For a long time, many questions had risen about stretches hold. One of the most asked questions is “How long should you hold a stretch?” Answers may vary, even from fitness experts. Some say that a stretch should be done in 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, and even 1 to 3 minutes. The general answer is actually 30 seconds, which is the safest time for holding.
Let us get deeper into the subject and understand how much is too much!
Factors that affect stretch hold time
Your ability to hold a stretch is greatly affected by many factors. You may not be able to hold a stretch for 30 seconds or so because of the following:
- Fatigued muscles – if your muscles are too worked out, your ability to hold a stretch for 30 seconds is affected. It is important to do your training workout routine with care and not to overdo your exercise. If fatigued muscles limit your hold capacity, then you must slowly remind your muscles of its ability by slowly trying to hold a stretch longer each time.
- Scar tissue – if your muscles have scarred tissues, it is difficult to hold a stretch since you may feel discomfort or pain while holding a stretch. You can remedy this by pushing yourself gently to hold longer seconds for stretching.
- Muscle temperature – the temperature of your muscles earlier and after your high-intensity workout play a major role in your ability to hold a stretch. Too much heat or cold muscle temperature leads to the inability to hold a stretch for the desired duration.
- Activity before the flexibility exercise – what you do before you engage in stretching affects your performance and this is especially true during the cooling down period. Overdoing your workout could stress your muscles too much, and you cannot execute a proper stretch hold.
- Collagen/elastic compound – as you age, your collagen content in your muscles decreases. This is particularly happening to women but is also true for men. You can prevent this from happening by taking in food supplements high in collagen or applying topical products that are rich in collagen.
- Dehydration – lack of fluids in your body can impact negatively your ability to hold a stretch. It is ideal to stay hydrated at all times during the day and night, especially when you are working out.
- Medical condition – if you have a medical condition like hypertension, connective tissue disorder, diabetes, or vices like heavy drinking and smoking, you may not be able to hold a stretch for the standard time of 30 seconds. However, you can gradually ease your muscles into holding a stretch by slowly introducing stretching to your system.
Why hold a stretch for 30 seconds?
It is highly recommended by many fitness trainers and sports training experts to hold one stretch for 30 seconds. This is enough time to give the muscles and tissues room to let go of tensions and achieve the needed length of the stretch. Less than 20 seconds is not adequate for the fibers and tissues to reach the true potential of a stretch. However, it is also important to note that pushing hard for a stretch beyond our body’s capability may be harmful. Be very careful in sensing the limits of your body for the stretch hold. If your body cannot handle a 30-second stretch, then start with 15 seconds and gradually increase your momentum as you continue with your stretches. After you hold a 30-second stretch, you can repeat the same stretch 2 to 3 times more.
Your muscles are equipped with a naturally built-in defensive mechanism that actually fights back when you stretch too far. Your goal here is to relax your muscles, not antagonize them into tightening further. Instead of aiming to hold your stretch longer, you should hold for 30 seconds at a time and repeat the process over and over. This way, you will get your desired results.
If you are new to stretching, you have to condition your muscles first and ease into the routine. Start by holding a stretch for 5 seconds at first, repeating the process for 2 to 3 times more for each stretch style. Then gradually increase your hold time to 10 seconds, then 15 seconds, up to 30 seconds as you progress in your flexibility exercise routine. Test how much your body can take, and pay attention to the point when you feel the stress in your muscles as you stretch.
This same gradual increase of hold time is also advisable if you had an injury and is recovering from it. Even though you are used to stretching for 30 seconds before you got injured, you need to start from the lowest hold time to slowly train your muscles again to hold a stretch longer.
When to hold for 60 seconds
Age plays a huge part in the stretch holding time. People who are more than 65 years old must hold a stretch for 60 seconds to get the same result as the younger generation. But, if you are younger than 65, you should hold a stretch for 30 seconds only. There is no real evidence that more than 30 seconds is more beneficial. In fact, there are studies that show that beyond 30 seconds of hold can cause a decrease in sports performance. So if you are still in your young years, limit your stretch hold for 30 seconds only. And when you become a senior citizen, hold for 60 seconds.
Stretching is always advisable before a workout. As a beginner, hold it for 5 seconds and then move to 30 seconds. Never be in rush mode because your muscles need time to get conditioned. We believe that your body requires stretching to remain healthy and even exercise the muscles.
So, make it a habit to stretch early in the morning and before working out.