The Different Types of Stretches

To make sure your muscles retain their ability to relax and stretch when you want them to (no matter what your age), they need to do so regularly. That means you need to purposely do movements that stretch your muscles.

If you’re looking to increase your flexibility, We recommends stretching three to five days a week for five minutes. Here are the types of stretches you can do to maintain or improve
flexibility.

Static Stretching

One of the most common types of stretching is static stretching, in which you move to a joint’s end range of motion and then hold that position for 15, 30, 60 seconds, or longer. For example, to stretch your hamstrings, you can touch your toes, either while standing or seated on the floor with your legs outstretched. To stretch your chest muscles, you can hold both sides of a doorframe and then step forward. To stretch your glutes, you can hug your knee into your chest.

Most people grew up performing these flexibility stretches before beginning their regular strength training and aerobic workouts. However, consistent research shows that, as a general
rule, people should not perform static stretches, especially when held for periods longer than 60 seconds, before their workouts. (2) That’s because static stretches can actually make the muscles too flexible without allowing them to properly stabilize your body’s joints.

For that reason, it’s best to static stretch after exercise as a way to help cool down or throughout the day as a way to break up long periods of stretching and loosen tight muscles.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretches are exercises that gently move joints through their full range of motion, increasing blood flow to the body’s muscles and connective tissues. For this reason, they are
ideal to perform before workouts.

Research suggests that dynamic stretching before a workout can improve performance and  help prevent injury — though static stretching after a workout may be better for improving flexibility.

And remember, when it comes to stretching and flexibility, repetition reigns. “Like everything else, flexibility training requires a constant commitment.” In one University of São Paulo study of people with tight hamstrings, defined as an inability to fully bend the knee due to tightness, stretching three to five times per week was superior to stretching once per week in improving hamstring flexibility and knee range of motion.

How Strength Training Improves Flexibility

Another way to improve overall muscle function and mobility is strength training (which itself is a component of exercise you should already be doing twice per week, according to physical activity guidelines). Findings published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research show that strength training on its own can improve flexibility. Meanwhile, in one North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study of athletes with tight hamstrings,  performing eccentric hamstring exercises improved flexibility twice as well as static flexibility
stretches.