Daily NOT Weekly Stretching Frequency May Matter Most
We all know where the research usually stands on stretching: Right smack in the middle of nowhere.
There is little evidence that stretching of any type reduces injury risk; some evidence that static stretching may decrease power output in the lengthened muscles (though possibly not in explosive muscle actions lasting less than 100 milliseconds…); and the optimal modes of frequency and progression are still unknown.
The 2011 ACSM guidelines state that “flexibility exercise is effective in improving joint range of motion when performed at least 2-3 days per week, with the greatest gains occurring when stretching is done daily to the point of discomfort (but not pain);” HOWEVER, a more recent study in the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests otherwise.
In this particular study, authors tested joint range of motion at the hip after stretching either daily or three times per week, and either once or twice per day. After eight weeks, they found that hip ROM was increased equally in people who stretched daily and those who stretched only three days per week but TWICE on those days.
Conclusion: Three days per week of stretching may be as beneficial as daily stretching, provided the stretches are performed twice on those three days.
This may be good news for people with hectic schedules, and those used to stretching before and after a three-day training split. As always, one study doesn’t tell us much…But with stretching, thousands of studies haven’t told us much either! So we might as well try the protocol for ourselves if it’s a better fit for our lives. The one thing we do know is that anyone who needs to increase joint ROM will likely benefit from some stretching than none at all.