How does stretching increase flexibility? • Common Purpose

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How does stretching increase flexibility?


Words by Common Purpose Team

Published 4th November 2021

If one of your training goals is to increase your flexibility, the obvious choice we first make is to begin stretching more. We get a lot of questions about stretching and the improvements it can have on your body, and your flexibility. So we’ve put together answers to the questions we get asked the most. 

How does stretching relax the muscles?


When muscles are stretched, special cells called muscle spindles detect a length change in the muscle fibres. In order to protect the muscle from injury, the nervous system reacts via a stretch reflex to resist this change. However, if the stretch is sustained, this initial reflex dissipates and the muscle spindles “habituate” to its newly lengthened state, hence the temporary improvement in flexibility.

What’s the best way to stretch to gain flexibility


To gain flexibility in the muscles, gently stretch them in a slow, dynamic fashion (no rapid bouncing for example), whilst gradually increasing the range of motion as you go. This seems to be the best way to relax the nervous system and improve muscle flexibility.

How long does it take before stretching will increase your flexibility?


You can gain significant improvements in flexibility after just a few minutes, but this is often short-lived. It takes repetitive exposure over weeks, even months to create permanent changes in flexibility.

Can stretching help tone your body – or make you leaner?


In a word, no. Stretching alone doesn’t tone your body or make you leaner. Increasing your activity levels, hitting your nutrition targets and performing strength-based movements (even bodyweight for most beginners) will all culminate into a leaner, more toned physique.

How often should you stretch?


We suggest performing some form of active mobility for at least 10mins every day, to see significant, permanent changes in flexibility. Beyond this performing 1-2 dedicated stretch-based, active mobility sessions a week (yoga classes for example), can help speed up the process of improving flexibility. 

If you’re looking to make your fitness journey as enjoyable as possible and achieve exceptional results, we’d love to help you. Take a look at the four pillars of training we abide by, and feel free to reach out to a member of our friendly team.