Moving better and getting stronger has been my goal for as long as I can remember. One of the pieces to the moving better puzzle is stretching, which I admit isn’t my strongest suit. I have recognized the importance of stretching after my recent running injury, specifically, my injury was adductor and groin strain. I had a chance to work with a sports physical therapist and I revisited my graduate school course work to find out how stretching can improve joint Range of Motion, muscle strength, and athletic performance.
Static stretching isn’t the only way to stretch and reap these benefits to get all these benefits. But thats what comes to mind when you think of stretching like a runner holding his leg up on the bench or fence to stretch the hamstring muscles.
The more I researched about this topic. I learned that there was more to stretching than just static stretches.
Suppose you are like me. Maybe you have heard different things about stretching. Don’t stretch before your workout, or you will get injured. While stretching, you can extend your muscles beyond their normal range of motion, leading to an injury. Well, these myths are partially true because these characteristics belong to different kinds of stretches.
In this blog today, I will be talking about five different types of stretches and busting some stretching myths. Read on to find out more about stretching. In this blog, we’ll discuss the five different types of stretching, their benefits, and differences, and a few simple tips for starting a new stretching routine.
Types of Stretching
There are different types of stretching, just the way there are different types of cars. The primary purpose of all the stretches is to elongate the muscles and increase flexibility, but the way to get there is different with different types of stretches. Each type of stretching has different benefits and should be practiced at different times around the activity.
Static stretching is the oldie but Goldie. This is the type of stretching most of us are most familiar with. Static stretching assumes a position that elongates a particular group of muscles and holds it for 30–45 seconds. There are two types of static stretching:
Active stretching is just you and your body. Dynamic stretching involves contracting one muscle group to lengthen the opposing muscle group, such as contracting your biceps to stretch your triceps in the overhead triceps stretch.
Passive stretching involves using an object or person to aid the stretch, such as bands, a wall, bench or a partner. This type of stretching can significantly improve flexibility and range of motion, but it can lead to muscle injury if stretched beyond the safe extension levels.
Static stretching should ideally be practiced after physical activity. Try not to skip it after the activity. Research shows that static stretching before the workout can reduce muscle strength and power for a brief period. After the training session, static stretching is beneficial as it enhances the parasympathetic, or rest and digest branch of the nervous system.
Dynamic stretching is composed of large controlled, repetitive movements that move your joints an extensive range of motion. Dynamic stretching incorporates exercises to loosen your muscles while warming them up for the physical activity. Dynamic stretching is moving in and out of a particular stretch, like accelerated yoga flow practice. Dynamic stretching helps warm up the muscles and get them ready for exertion.
Research suggests that this kind of stretching increases Range of Motion (ROM), flexibility, and the risk of injury due to overextension.
Ballistic stretching encompasses intensive movement patterns in the warm-up routine. It’s most popular among athletes. This stretching technique uses force and speed to move the joints beyond their normal ROM. It’s essential to do these stretches safely and mindfully to minimize the risk of injury. Ballistic stretching has been shown to decrease muscle and tendon tightness. But due to the high velocity of stretching and the chances of injury associated with it, this form of stretching might not be as helpful for the non-athletic population.
PNF Stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)
PNF stretching is mostly used in physical rehabilitation. This type of stretching involves contracting a muscle group for about five seconds and holding it with an opposite resistance like a partner or wall. PNF Stretching increases ROM and neuromuscular efficiency. It also helps regain strength lost after an injury. Every joint has an active and passive range of motion, as described above in the static stretching section if the difference between an active and passive range of motion of a joint is significant the chances of injury increase. With proper training and PNF stretching that focuses on increasing your dynamic range of motion, the risk of injury can be reduced.
It’s recommended to perform PNF stretching under the supervision of a trained professional after exercising.
Myofascial release massage therapy is a gentle hands-on massage technique that is used to release fascial tightness. It appears like a massage, but in reality, it’s stretching and releasing myofascial tissue — the connective tissue made up of collagen. It is shown to reduce pain, remove knots/trigger points, improve flexibility, and enhance circulation. The most commonly accessible form of myofascial release is foam rolling. Foam rolling helps release any lactic acid buildup in your muscles and tendons from exercise.
As simple as stretching sounds, it covers a broad range of activities. All these different types of stretches play an essential role in optimizing fitness, no matter which sport or fitness modality you love. By incorporating the proper stretching into your workout routine, you can increase mobility, athleticism, and range of motion — all of these are essential components of a balanced fitness program.