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I stretch almost every day, and I have been doing so for a few months. My hands stop short almost a hand length from my toes. After I stretch, I can touch them. The next day, I'm back to zero.

This has been going on for months - am I doing something wrong?

I'm holding stretches for 3 minutes now.

  • 1
    What else are you doing, how many stretches, and what times of day? One stretch a day on its own is unlikely to do anything. – Rory Alsop Apr 2 '19 at 13:23
  • It may be caused by weak hamstrings, glutes or abs. Se my answer to: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/39726/…. If this is the case stretching will not help you however long you do it. – Andy Apr 2 '19 at 14:45
  • I do RDLs already and my Deadlift and squat are around 150kg, but I do have more ROM after doing RDLs! – BigBadWolf Apr 2 '19 at 16:34
  • Well so much for that theory. Maybe it is a good idea to do a exercise called The Founder. It uses the arms as leverage to get a light load. So in someways it should be similar to a deadlift with a very light load (eg. empty bar). In general I think stretching with light load (eccentric stretching) is more effective than without. – Andy Apr 3 '19 at 7:36
  • What hamstring stretch are you doing exactly? Not all hamstring stretches are equal. I see people at the gym doing hamstring stretches that are a complete waste of time. I have been stretching daily for years, and I hope I can say without bragging that I can touch my nose to my knees when I am stranding with straight legs. So I can probably give you some advise, but first I'd like to know exactly what hamstring stretch you are doing. – Chris Apr 3 '19 at 20:56
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+150

Stretching causes both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) increases in flexibility. You get a very big, but very temporary increase in flexibility, as well as a much smaller but more permanent increase in flexibility. So you will always be more flexible right after you've stretched than the next day.

You're not doing anything wrong, and if you want to make the long-term increases in flexibility come quicker, all you can do is stretch more often. If you will need to demonstrate flexibility at a specific time (e.g. for sports performance), then just make sure you stretch that day before you need to demonstrate maximum flexibility.

Here are some examples of evidence for this effect:

  1. Lew Hardy (1985) Improving Active Range of Hip Flexion Hardy (1985) results

In these results, the "Day 6" measurement was taken immediately after the final session of a 6 day stretching program, and the "Day 7" measurement was taken a day later. You can see how the measurements taken immediately after the final stretching session are much greater than those from 1 day post-training. The study explains that this is the difference between the acute (long-term) and chronic (short-term) affects of stretching, stating: "The Day 7 scores were therefore regarded as a measure of the long term, or retained, gains resulting from the different treatments. However, on Day 6 the experimental subjects were posttested after stretching. The Day 6 test for the control group was administered in the same way as on Days 1 and 7. The Day 6 scores were therefore regarded as a measure of the immediate (warming-up) benefit of the different treatment methods."

  1. Bruce R. Etnyre & Eva J. Lee (1988) Chronic and Acute Flexibility of Men and Women Using Three Different Stretching Techniques Etnyre, Lee (1988) results

In this study, measurements were also taken before ("Pre 12") and after ("Post 12") a final training session. It isn't clear from the study text whether the week 3, 6 and 9 measurements were taken before or after stretching, but from the results it appears that they were taken after stretching (as otherwise they would indicate a loss of chronic flexibility between weeks 9 and 12). Once again we see a large jump in flexibility when measured immediately after training, but when flexibility is measured when the trainee has not recently stretched, they are seen to have smaller increases in flexibility. (But they are still more flexible than they were before the beginning of the program.)

For more accessible further reading on this topic, I'd recommend Stretching Scientifically, by Thomas Kurz. On the topic of short vs long term changes in flexibility, he writes: "If you need to perform movements requiring considerable flexibility with no warm-up, you ought to make the early morning stretch a part of your daily routine (Ozolin 1971; Wazny 1981b). [...] The purpose of this stretching is to reset the nervous regulation of the length of your muscles for the rest of the day." (Note that Kurz is Polish and developed his career during the Soviet Union, hence most of the papers he cites are written in Polish or Russian.)

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  • 1
    Any chance of adding a "Further reading" section? – Alec Aug 8 at 19:57
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    @Alec Sure, I'd added references and recommended reading. – David Scarlett Aug 9 at 4:34

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