How long do you hold a stretch?

As a chiropractor we get asked about stretching all the time.  Most people think there is a certain universal time you hold a stretch for.  We are asked do yo hold it for 30 seconds, 20 seconds, or how long?  The answer is more complex than a predetermined set time that works for all.  Because people are different, your stretching times are different.

How long is based on you

Because we take care of lots of different people we have rules for the individual.  Understand that an IceHogs hockey player and a 80 year old women should need different rules for exercising and weight training.  Therefore people need different rules for stretching also.  Could you imagine an IceHog doing chair yoga or an 80 year old woman skating during warm ups at a hockey game?  Obliviously these two would need different activities.

7/10 rule

We use the 7/10 rule to determine how long you hold a stretch.  First take the stretch until the intensity is a 7/10.  1/10 would be at rest and 10/10 would be almost snapping the tendons.  Once you have reached 7/10 you stay there.  As you stay there the muscle start to relax and it will drop to a 5/10.  Because the muscle has dropped now to a 5/10 you want to reengage the stretch and bring it back to a 7/10.  When reengaging do not bounce or release the stretch, simply just slowly reapply the force until it is 7/10 again.  After it returns to a 5/10 you are done.  Some people this might be a fast stretch while others it could take a long time to reach 5/10.

Bad then good then bad

Often if stretching two different legs or shoulders there is a good one and a bad one.  If one side is tighter we begin with that side.  Start with the tighter side, then stretch the less tight side, and lastly finished with tight side again.  If you do not have a tighter side then disregard and just one time each.


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