In the past, stretching was just stretching. There was only one kind and everybody did it before working out, and some also did it after exercise. These days, every aspect of exercise is more scientific and technical, and what used to be simple stretching is not so simple anymore. Not only are there different types of stretching, it is now recognized that the timing of when you stretch can be as important as which stretches you are actually performing.
It can be confusing enough to figure out how much to exercise, which exercise to do, and how to properly perform them. And now the very concept of flexibility training is being stretched, dissected and analyzed to make everything even harder to figure out. Luckily, the staff at Flex4Fitness are hard at work trying to sort out the information and bring you practical advice to help you spend less of your valuable time trying figuring out what to do and more time Flexing 4 Fitness!
There are many different types of stretching, some very basic, others more advanced. The most common stretches we were taught in the past are now classified as static stretches. The following is a brief overview of the basic stretching types that are recognized now and what the benefits and drawbacks of each one are:
- Static- Static stretching is when you use your own body weight or opposing muscle groups to stretch and hold a fixed position to elongate and loosen your muscles. This type of stretch is very good for improving flexibility and range of motion in your joints as well as maintaining flexibility as we age. We used to think it was also good for preventing injuries and maximizing performance when performed before physical activity. However, its effectiveness regarding the prevention of injuries has been questioned and studies have shown that static stretching actually decreases your power, balance and reactions time when done prior to sporting activities. However, routine static stretching may reduce the risk of injury as it increases the safe range through which a joint can be moved without injury occurring to surrounding muscles and ligaments. The best time to do static stretching is after working out and in between workouts. Examples of a static stretch include the hamstring stretch, quadriceps stretch, calf stretch, triceps stretch and butterfly stretch. There are two types of static stretches.
- Passive- Static Passive Stretching is when you use your own body weight to hold the stretching position.
- Active- Static Active Stretching is when you do not use your own body weight but rather resistance from opposing muscle groups to hold the stretch.
- Dynamic- Dynamic Stretching is when you use movement and momentum to go through exaggerated motions that use the same motions as running, or other activity-specific movements. Unlike static stretching, the final position is not held. Dynamic stretching appears to be a better alternative to static stretching when performed before athletic activities. Dynamic stretching uses activity-specific movements to prepare the body for movement. Arms circles, exaggerated kicking or throwing motion, knee lifts and lunges are examples of dynamic stretches.
- Ballistic- Ballistic stretching is similar to dynamic stretching in the it uses motion as a way to stretch. However, ballistic stretching involves bouncing or jerking movements. Ballistic stretching is effective at increasing range of motion in joints but leaves you more susceptible to injury due to the small tears that the bouncing motion creates. Since it may increase your risk for injury, it should be performed with caution.