How many times per week should I stretch to become flexible? As flexibility instructor and contortionist in training, I often get this question. And I also see in social media different answers from other instructors.
At the end of the day, how much you need to stretch it depends on your body type and your lifestyle. And your goals, of course!!! :-)
I started stretching at age 27. However, all my life I have been doing sports, and I always incorporated, in one form or another, stretching exercises. I competed swimming until age 14, then joined a dance school and danced until the good old university times arrived. During those summers I worked as lifeguard as well, which it made me focus on athletic training. I started practicing yoga at age 20, mostly for the mental benefits than the physical benefits. I never did weight training or something similar... the only strengthening I did was joining on and off pilates classes.
Consequently, by the time I started stretching, my body was still quite opened. On one hand, it was thanks to my active lifestyle. On the other hand, thanks to my natural flexibility..
Now, let's think on you. First two questions:
Your starting point: Have you been doing sports in the past? or you had rather a sedentary lifestyle?
Your genetics: Genetically, what type of body you have? do you feel freedom on movement or do you feel tight?
While people recommend to stretch every day, depending on your natural body type, I would even recommend you to stretch less days or with less intensity. A lot depends also on your goals. Throughout the years, I found people who started stretching for different reasons:
Reduce muscular pain
Increase range of motion and feel consequently freedom in movement (my favorite!!!)
Reach skills required for the sports they were practising (e.g. martial arts, circus arts, dancers)
Take on a new challenge
Hence, what is your goal? do you simply want to become more flexible? maybe one day reach to do a split? a solid bridge? or get enough mobility, so your body doesn't feel like a 60 years old in your 30s?
Stretching the body regularly is very healthy. However, if you focus only on stretching trainings - and here I mean specific flexibility trainings; or even one single yoga type practice, where you stretch all the time same muscle groups - maybe you should rethink twice if you don't want to incorporate stabilization exercises.
Too much flexibility isn't healthy. You will get wobbly and no muscles to hold you. Too much strength and pumped muscles isn't healthy neither. Your muscles will become shorter and shorter, and injuries will start. Likewise in flexibility, injuries can start in form, for example, of luxations.
When I started stretching training, I focused only on stretching passively and almost every day. Hence, I made out of a natural flexible body, even a wobblier one. Leading also to some injuries... After years trying out different training routines, and learning more about my body and mind, I can tell you: I personally don't need to stretch more than 3-4 days per week. More wouldn't bring me to my goals, not at least to the short term goals!
But we are all different. As a rule of thumb, if you are naturally a stiff person, I would recommend stretching up to 6 days. Stretch always after exercising, long days sitting or standing, and when you feel stiff. Like in any type of sports, don't forget to have a rest day. Your muscles need to rest and embrace the new range of motion.
If you are naturally flexible person, work on stabilizing your body and active flexibility routines. I personally like ballistic and static stretching, adding sometimes dynamic stretches. And never stop engaging the muscles!
Nothing is impossible. Even if you are an adult, you can get more flexible - but you do need to understand yourself and have a targeted training routine. Once you start stretching, as your body goes opening and reshaping, routines have to be adjusted.
Summarizing, we are all different and when it comes to stretching and flexibility trainings, there is a lot you need to take into account. Stretch always after exercising, foremost after weight lifting or practicing sports that will encourage muscle shortening. Incorporate stretching routines after long sitting hours. If you start training flexibility, and you never did sports before or you have weak core etc., ensure you also get strong.
And If you can, find guidance and work together with a certified and experienced flexibility instructor.
Yes, even at age 30 and onwards you can get splits and more, you just need to play it smart! Open the areas that are closed, and not overstretch the parts of the body that are already quite opened!
If you want to stretch the body, try out my latest 20min routine on YouTube. If you have some stretching experience and want to stretch deeper the body, I recommend my 50min routine also available on my YouTube channel.