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Stretching & Pregnancy
By Jennifer Cristaudo, Kit Laughlin

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The Contract-Relax (C-R) method

  • Move slowly into a gentle stretch position, hold for 10-30 seconds and ensure you are comfortable and still breathing normally
  • Contract the muscle being stretched without allowing the limb to move for 5-10 seconds
  • Gently stop the contraction, breath in, and slowly re-stretch further on the next out breath
  • You may perform more C-R cycles if you feel it will allow further improvement
  • Hold the final position for 10-60 seconds (or 5-10 slow and controlled breaths)

How long and how hard should you contract during the C-R?

  • Shorter duration (3-5 seconds) and less force for smaller and weaker muscles
  • Longer duration (5-10 seconds) and more force for larger and stronger muscles
  • Experiment to find what works best in your own body

How often should you stretch?

  • Gentle stretching (without C-Rs) and/or mobility movements should be done daily to help maintain your current range of motion
  • More intense stretching (using the C-R method) where you explore a new range of motion can be done 1-2 times per week
  • Experiment to find what works best in your own body

Some tips on how to use this approach effectively

  • Ensure you can maintain the correct form of the exercise; if necessary make use of suitable props for support or find a regression of the exercise where you can maintain the form
  • If there is a clear left to right difference in flexibility; begin by stretching your tighter side, then stretch your looser side, and finally stretch your tighter side again
  • Always bend forwards after bending backwards
  • When returning from any stretch position, try to use different muscles to those that you’ve just stretched
 

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