intervention that promotes relaxation can improve stretching
and compliment any stretching program. Methods of superficial
deep heat, massage, gentle joint distraction, or relaxation training
are useful ways to improve stretching. You can improve your results of
stretching also by increasing the frequency of stretching.
There are several hypotheses that exist to explain the increase in mobility that results from stretching. Depending on which factor you are trying to influence will determine which method you use to improve a stretch.
How does flexibility increase with stretching
Gentle Joint Distraction
Frequency of Stretching
Relaxation training reduces muscle tension throughout the body or in the region that is restricted through conscious effort. Examples of relaxation training are as follows:
Autogenic training - Autogenic training was developed by German psychiatrist Heinrich Schultz in 1932. Visualization, autosuggestion , meditation, and a series of exercises are used to induce a tate of relaxation and influence the autonomic nervous system.
Progressive relaxation - Progressive relaxation was developed in the 1920's by Edmund Jacobson, an American physician, and involves a distal to proximal progression of muscle contraction and relaxation to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. With eyes closed the individual becomes aware of tension in each muscle group as each is tensed and relaxed
Awareness through movement - This system was developed by Moshe Feldenkrais to improve muscle imbalances, , relieve muscle tension and pain, and improve postural alignment. This system combines sensory awareness, deep breathing, and movement, and self massage.
Indicators of total body relaxation
Using heat alone without stretching has no effect on improving muscle flexibility. Most studies show that heat combined with stretching produces better long term gains than stretching without heat, although there are studies that show no effect.(1,2,3)
The effectiveness of cold in increasing the effectiveness of a stretch may rely on its ability to dampen the stretch reflex or because it blocks the pain of the stretch. Use of cold may allow an individual to endure more discomfort and therefore apply a greater stretch. Caution should of course be taken so as not to stretch too far and damage tissues.
Cooling tissues after stretching in a lengthened position has been shown to prolong the lengthening effects of the stretch and lessen post exercise soreness.
1. ME Laban Collagen tissue: implications of its response to stress in vitro. Arch Phys Med Rehabtl. 1966; 43.461-466.
2. JF Lehmann , AJ Masock, CG Warren, N Koblanski. Effect of therapeutic temperatures on tendon extensibility. Arch PhysMedRehabil. 1970;51:481- 487.
3. AA Sapega, TC Quendenfeld, RA Moyer, RA Butler. Biophysical factors in range of motion exercise. Phys Sportsmed. 1981; 9(12):57-65, 106.
4. WD Bandy, JM Irion, M Briggler. The effect of static stretch and dynamic range of motion training on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. J.Orthop Sports Phys Ther 27(4)295-300.
5.WD Bandy, JM Irion, M Briggler. The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther 77(10)1090-1096.