In addition to improving posture, circulation and range of motion, stretching can help decrease the risk of muscle injury and reduce muscle soreness after exercising. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults should perform stretching exercises at least two to three days a week after muscles have been warmed up. There are seven different types of stretches you can perform to maximize fitness benefits.
Static stretching is performed by stretching a muscle to a point of maximal tension and holding it for 30 seconds. With active static stretching, you apply your own pressure during the stretch. An example of an active static stretch would be sitting on the floor with your legs out in front of you while pulling your toes back to stretch your calves and hamstrings.
Passive static stretching is performed by holding a stretch for 30 seconds. This type of static stretching can be performed with a partner who applies force to increase the intensity of each stretch or with resistance bands or machines.
Dynamic stretching includes sport-specific flexibility exercises designed to mimic the movement patterns of different activities. An example of a dynamic stretch would be a runner who took long, slow strides similar to a running motion, exaggerating each movement to maximize the stretch.
Ballistic stretching involves quick, repeated bouncing movements. Coaches and fitness professionals often discourage ballistic stretching because it has the potential to cause injury. However, if performed after static stretching and in slowly increasing velocity, these stretches can be performed safely.
Active isolated stretching is performed in sets of reps, much like weight training. Each stretch is only held for two seconds before it is released and then held again. Each subsequent stretch should increase in intensity over the course of the set.
Myofascial release utilizes a foam roller to stretch muscles and fascia, the body's complex system of connective tissues. Pressure is applied by moving a foam roller over the target area in short, controlled movements. Myofascial release is similar to deep tissue massage, but it can be self-administered.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Fascilitation
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is the most effective form of stretching to increase range of motion. PNF involves a series of stretching and contracting opposing muscle groups. These stretches are often performed on individuals by physical therapists and by sports doctors seeking to repair muscle injuries and increase athletic performance.
- Science of Flexibility; Michael J. Alter
- The Genius of Flexibility: The Smart Way to Stretch and Strengthen Your Body; Bob Cooley