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The Truth About Flexibility

How long should you stretch a muscle to get optimal flexibility? Get-Fit Guy has the data from the latest scientific research to help you limber up.

By
Ben Greenfield,
January 3, 2014

I recently tweeted:

“Do you truly need to increase flexibility in a muscle? To optimize, you must hold a stretch for 3 or more MINUTES!”

So what did I mean by this?

While you can certainly can use many of the strategies I discuss in How to Get More Flexible to increase your ability to move your joints through a range-of-motion (e.g. reaching your arms overhead while swimming, getting your hips into a deep barbell squat, lunging to the side during a tennis match, etc.) you need to sometimes actually increase the flexibility in the muscle itself, rather than simply increasing range-of-motion in a joint.

A recent study called “Acute Effects of Different Stretching Durations on Passive Torque, Mobility, and Isometric Muscle Force“ looked at the flexibility in the hamstring muscle – specifically during a straight leg raise. The study compared stretching lengths of 20, 60, 180, and 300 seconds. It was found that over 180 seconds of stretching was required to decrease muscle stiffness and to truly increase flexibility.

So although 3 minutes may seem like a long time, it can actually require a long stretch like that (such as you might experience during a yoga class) if your lack of flexibility is due to very tight muscles.

Do you have questions about the truth about flexibility? Then leave a comment over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

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