The following mentions most of the variations and general rules of stretching. Of course all of these principles do not have to be done to have successful stretching. However, I have examples of how each one of these general rules helped at least one patient to find success at gaining flexibility. Some of the principles like never stretching through pain and deep breathing while stretching are tried and true.
Here are my 13 Stretching Tips for every muscle/tendon in the lower extremity (hips, knees, ankles, and feet). These general principles help to avoid injury and should be used daily. Proper stretching is vital to the health of our muscles.
•#1 Hold each stretch for 30(minimum) to 60 seconds, and repeat twice.
•#2 Alternate between sides while stretching (for example, right achilles with knee straight, then left achilles, then right, then left).
•#3 Do not bounce while stretching, hold steady.
•#4 Deep breathe to get oxygen into the muscles while stretching. Normally 5 deep breathes equals 30 seconds.
•#5 Stretching before exercise should be done after a light warm up, like walking or stationary bike or jog, and is crucial, and is crucial in preventing many injuries due to tightness like achilles or hamstring strains. Julie Cox, PT, recommends pre-activity stretching to be slightly less time (20 to 30 seconds) followed by gentle rhythmical motion to warm up the muscle group involved for another 30 seconds. For example, achilles stretching pre-workout could be followed by a gentle rhythmical motion for 30 seconds (back and forth) between raising the heel up off the ground and then lowering the heel back down. Stretching hard when the muscles are cold (based on weather or time of day) can injure the muscle and gives pre-workout stretching a bad name. I personally like 5 minutes of stationary bike or walking or a sport specific activity (shooting before a basketball game) before starting my pre-workout stretch.
•#6 Stretching after a work out is the most important time to gain flexibility since the muscles are heated up.
•#7 If one side of your body is tighter, do twice as many stretches on that side versus the looser side.
•#8 If you want to gain flexibility, stretch the desired muscle group three times per day, whether you work out or not.
•#9 If you want to maintain flexibility, average one time per day stretching the desired muscle group.
•#10 Never stretch through pain, it only makes the muscle tighter afterwards.
•#11 Make sure when stretching that your body is stable(not likely to fall over, etc)
•#12 Most muscle/tendons can be stretched for better results in various positions. For example, when stretching the hamstring, you need to stretch both the upper and lower parts. And especially for the lower hamstring, you can stretch various parts by positioning your foot straight, externally rotated, and then internally rotated. You will feel the pull on the hamstring at different parts.
•#13 With many muscle/tendon injuries, if you can find a way to stretch it which relaxes the sore area, you are going to heal much faster. As long as you can stretch without making it painful, you can stretch an injured muscle/tendon 5 to 10 times daily.