Introduction: Flexibility (a.k.a. stretching) exercises are designed to
increase the range of motion in a particular joint and are best conducted after
your cardio or strengthening exercises (i.e., when your muscles are warm). Special
attention should be focused on the muscles of the lower back and posterior thigh
(hamstrings), and of course, stretches for the hand and forearm. Two of the most common and
effective types of stretching techniques are static and PNF (proprioceptive
neuromuscular facilitation). Briefly, static stretching involves stretching to a
position of mild discomfort and holding that position for a certain length of time,
while PNF stretching involves a combination of both contraction and relaxation of a
muscle and is usually done with a partner.
Follow the mode, frequency, intensity, duration, and volume guidelines below for optimum results.
Mode refers to either static, PNF, or both stretching techniques as part of your
flexibility program. It is important to always remember to breath naturally when
stretching, as this will help you to relax while holding the position.
Frequency of exercise refers to the regularity with which the exercises are
performed throughout the week. A minimum of 2 to 3 days per week should be
dedicated to stretching and can be performed at the conclusion of your cardio or
Intensity refers to the amount of discomfort experienced by the individual while
holding the stretch. Stretch only to a position of mild discomfort. Feeling pain
in any stretch can produce microtears in your muscles and is therefore
The duration of any stretch must be held for at least 10 seconds in order to
activate the physiological mechanisms responsible for increasing your range of
motion. The PNF stretching technique involves: (1) stretching to a position of
mild discomfort and holding for 10 to 30 seconds, (2) isometrically contracting
the muscle being stretched for 6 seconds, and (3) again relaxing in the stretch
for another 10 to 30 seconds.
Volume refers to the number of repetitions a particular stretch in performed.
For example, you can stretch your right thigh for 10 seconds, then stretch the
left thigh, and return again to the right thigh for another stretch. Typically,
1 to 3 repetitions is sufficient.