The Different Types of Stretching
There is a variety of stretching categories to choose from, and each serves its own purpose in helping you achieve your goals. Any apprehension you might have about learning a new way of stretching will quickly disappear as you notice almost immediate gains in your flexibility. Each of these techniques has something to offer everyone, from beginner to veteran. Each technique complements the others and has its place in your regimen. What varies is the intensity and duration for each stretch. Whatever is your starting point, you can count on gains from all types of stretching.
1. Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching involves active movements that are generally done prior to an activity or moving into other forms of stretching. The unique advantage of dynamic stretching is that it moves your joints and recruits your muscles the same way you use them in real life. Whether you’re stepping out of the car or running around the track, your muscles move in incredibly complex patterns.
Aim to increase your menu of dynamic stretches over time to counter your tightest areas and the muscles most important to your activities. When developing a warm-up program and considering the active stretches to include, be sure to choose dynamic stretches for each major muscle group you’ll be using during your activity. Complete 8 to 12 repetitions of the movement before moving to the next.
2. Static Stretching
These are the stretches you’re most likely familiar with, and the stretches you hold as explained later. Your body isn’t in motion when you complete a static stretch. It’s best to static stretch at the end of an activity or after you’ve completed your dynamic stretches, so as not to stretch cold muscles. You’ll receive the greatest benefits from these stretches with the muscles already warmed up. Be sure to focus on areas where you feel the most tightness, and experiment with as many different stretches as you feel comfortable with. You’ll want to be familiar with as many stretches as possible so you have various options based on your changing needs. When planning your stretches around an activity, think of the major muscle groups you’ll be using and be sure to pick a few stretches that target those areas.
3. Contract and Relax/AIS Stretching
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) is a technique that incorporates a gentle external pressure, applied with your hand or a rope, intended to reprogram your nervous system with a new range of motion. It’s also known as contract and relax stretching. It works by pairing up opposite muscles and allowing one muscle to relax its opposite contracts. Generally, this type of stretch is assisted by a rope, as seen in this book, or by another individual. Use the assistance to increase your normal range of motion for 1 or 2 seconds (don’t hold for longer or the stretch reflex will be activated), then relax for 5 to 10 seconds, and repeat the sequence 8 to 10 times for 1 or 2 sets. Exhale during the stretch phase and inhale on the return phase. Consider using this type of stretching on all the major muscle groups to see immense gains in your range of motion.