Types of Stretching

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This is from the author of Stretching Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

There are various stretching techniques, but three main methods have proven effective.

1. STATIC STRETCHING

Static stretching is the most practiced stretching method. Because its purpose is to maintain the body in good physical form, static stretching is more appropriate for beginners and people who are not very active.

Static stretching relies on basic stretch-ing movements and muscle contractions. These exercises, performed slowly over time, help you discover your deep (postur-al) muscles. They allow you to work your entire body while increasing awareness of your flexibility.

Muscles are lengthened using bending, extending, or twisting positions. These stretches must be done slowly so that the antagonistic muscles are not stimulated. Once you are comfortable in a stretched position, you hold the position for about 15 to 20 seconds to relax, lengthen, and oxygenate the muscle fibers.

2. DYNAMIC STRETCHING

Dynamic stretching is often recommended in athletic training programs. It increases energy and power because it acts on the elasticity of muscles and tendons. It relies on swinging movements done with a certain amount of speed. The technique consists of swinging the legs or arms in a specific direction in a controlled manner without bouncing or jerky movements. The agonist muscle contracts rapidly, which lengthens the antagonist muscle, thereby stretching it.

3. PNF STRETCHING

PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. The PNF stretching technique is widely used in reeducation therapy. PNF stretching involves four steps:

Gradually stretch a muscle to its maximum.

Perform an isometric contraction for about 15 to 20 seconds (while still in the lengthened position).

Relax the muscle for about 5 seconds.

Restretch that same muscle for about 30 seconds.