So what does that mean for you? Firstly, that holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time is more effective than stretching briefly. You should therefore hold each stretch for 30 - 60 seconds, breathing deeply throughout - you should find that each time you exhale you will be able to sink a little deeper into the stretch.
The other big question is when should you stretch? Most people stretch before a workout, but recent research strongly suggests that stretching prior to a workout is counterproductive. So if not before a workout, when?
The best time to stretch is at the end of a workout, or else in the evening - it's a great way to relax while watching TV, and will send you to bed feeling great.
Stretching after your workouts or late in the day can help you to recover after your workouts. When you stretch muscles you have worked hard, it helps to remove lactic acid that has accumulated in them.
Stretching also helps to remove waste from the muscles, and increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients. All of this will help to reduce the muscle soreness from heavy training.
The conclusion? Regular stretching has numerous benefits and should be a part of every athlete's training program.