Do you ever feel like all that stretching you’re doing doesn’t seem to work? You get a little looser temporarily but then all that progress is lost a couple of days later?
If this is the case, here are a few potential reasons why:
First though, it’s important to understand what stretching actually does, from a physiological standpoint. We tend to think that stretching literally ‘stretches’ muscle fibers, making them longer. This is not actually the case.
Your range of motion is governed by the nervous system. If you try to access a range with which your body does not feel safe, it kicks in the stretch reflex and contracts the muscles, preventing you from moving any further. This is a protective mechanism. The goal of stretching is to alter your stretch tolerance, so the stretch reflex doesn’t kick in so quickly, thus giving you access to more range of motion.
Changing your stretch tolerance takes time. Which is why it is recommended that you hold stretches for 2+ minutes. They need to be performed fairly frequently also (2-3 times per week is a good benchmark).
Another important component of stretching is your breathing. Holding your breath or breathing very shallow through the chest won’t achieve a thing. Deep, diaphragmatic breaths will.