How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?

Happy Monday and Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to all of the fabulous moms out there. I don’t know how you ladies do it! I hope you all had a wonderful day. The weather was heavenly in Massachusetts, and as I predicted, it seemed we went right from winter to summer. It was in the 80s!

Crabapple blossoms

Crabapple tree finally blossoming about 2 weeks later than usual

We had a lovely brunch yesterday with my parents, grandmother, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law, and my husband’s Grammie. It was such a whirlwind that I didn’t snap any pictures, despite making a point to take out our camera. The only thing I captured was cooking the veggies for the frittata the night before:

Veggie frittata filling

Everything cooked right in the cast iron. I love one-pot/pan cooking!

Today I wanted to talk about stretching because I have found it to be so beneficial for recovering from my injuries as well as staying injury-free. Since I’ve already shared my favorite stretches for the lower body, I wanted to specifically talk about how long to hold stretches* for because I’ve found people tend to rush through them. So,

How long to hold a stretch

My answer? At least twenty seconds. How did I arrive at this number? That’s how long my physical therapist told me I was to hold my prescribed stretches and I’ve been doing it ever since. When I first started doing this, 20 seconds seemed like forever. Now I’ll often hold a stretch for longer to allow myself to go deeper into the stretch. And, not only do I hold them for 20 seconds, but I often do two sets!

Quad stretch

To make the most of holding a stretch this long, use your breath to help ease you deeper into the stretch. Those that do yoga will know what I’m talking about, but for those who haven’t done it, use your inhale to relax your muscles while you’re in the stretch, and use your exhale to go deeper. Don’t force anything, because that can do more harm than good. Push it to where you feel it, but it shouldn’t be painful. I find it amazing how much deeper I can go as I relax the surrounding muscles and then use the exhale to stretch further.

Don’t forget to keep the rest of your muscles loose when you’re stretching as well. I sometimes find myself tensing up other areas of my body as I try to get a deeper stretch and have to constantly remind myself to keep it loose. As my girl Jillian likes to say when stretching the hammies,

Jillian Michaels streching quote

That being said, for anyone who does her DVDs, I would caution that she does not hold stretches long enough. Much of the time she seems to hold them for less than 10 seconds each. I have found this to be more of a problem in her quick workout DVDs such as 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30, probably to add to the speed of the workout. I always stop the DVD during the cool down and do my stretches. Don’t forget that you need to listen to your body and I’m guessing you’ll hear it asking for you to hold that stretch longer!

*Please note that I’m referring to static stretching. Static stretches are isolated stretches that you hold for a length of time and should be done at the end of a workout as opposed to dynamic stretching, or stretching that utilizes movement through the stretch and is done as part of a warm-up. A static stretch for shoulders, for example, would be when you pull the arm across the body to the opposite side, whereas a dynamic stretch for the shoulders would be arm circles.

Questions: How was your Mother’s Day? How’s the weather been lately where you are? Do you have a stretching routine? How long do you hold stretches for?


8 thoughts on “How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?

  1. Mother’s Day in France is in 2 weeks… so I need to wait ! I agree about the JM Shred DVD… she does not hold the stretches long enough. SO I always add on a bit. I usually stretch 20 to 30 seconds… when I do it. I am not consistent. Unfortunately…

  2. 20 seconds does seem like a long time when stretching but it’s well worth it to help prevent injuries! I honestly don’t think I stretch long enough but I really need to get into the habit of doing it longer!

    • Hi Polly! Thanks for stopping by! You won’t believe the difference holding a stretch longer will make. It seems like forever when you’re doing it at first, but then you just want to keep holding it because it feels so good!

  3. I am trying to get better at stretching, but I have always heard conflicting theories! My massage therapist tells me to stretch daily, my chiropractor says don’t stretch at all… I’m not sure who to believe! I know the stretching feels good, but only when my muscles are actually warm. I really like active stretching and I find I get the most benefits from it! These days I never know what to believe, ha!

    • I try to stretch only when I’m warmed up, but if you’re doing physical therapy, they tell you to stretch, stretch, stretch! You’re obviously not going to be working out 24/7, so you’re not always warmed up when you’re stretching. You just need to find what works for you. 🙂

  4. […] always do the stretches 1-2 times each and hold them for 20 seconds each time. Another great resource for tennis elbow stretches and strengthening is this one and closely […]

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