Stretches are exercises to make tissues longer so things can work better. Tissue that is tight may be muscles, tendon, ligament or fascia, depending on your particular situation. In order to get the most out of the time you spend stretching (and to keep you from making things worse), follow a few basic rules:
- Go slowly: Ease into and out of a stretch. Some of the tissues don’t have many sense organs so your brain is slow to get the message of how much strain is on an area. Go slowly so you don’t unknowingly go too far.
- Gentle to moderate intensity: You should feel some stretch but not painfully so. If the stretch hurts it will trigger a reflex that tightens the muscles to prevent you from moving – not useful if the idea is to move more.
- Once you reach the optimum point of the stretch for your body, stop and breathe. Breathing makes everything in the body move a little, so each breath adds a very gentle nudge to your stretch.
How far you move will vary day to day and even week to week depending on multiple factors. Be sure you have the right form and feel the stretch in the right place. If you do that, long term progress is inevitable. If you focus on how you are stretching and where you feel it - instead of being distracted or talking to someone - your brain will acknowledge much more quickly that those joints can do those movements. As a result, you will use the joint more during the day, adding to your speed of progress.