What Are The Different Types Of Stretching?
The benefits of stretching are many. Yet, in my opinion, stretching is one of the least focused and least done movements when people exercise. Here are the different types of stretching.
The Benefits Of Flexibility Training
Stretching is often passed on for people who aren’t major athletes. For the general public (except for the yoga enthusiasts) the only concern is to look good or perform better. Or worse yet, people don’t move at all. Yet, some major issues such as chronic back pain could benefit greatly from flexibility training. The overall benefits include (1):
1. Correcting muscle imbalances
2. Increasing joint range of motion
3. Decreasing the excessive tension of muscles
4. Relieving joint stress
5. Improving the extensibility of the musculotendinous junction (where muscles and tendons meet)
6. Maintaining the normal functional length of all muscles
7. Improving optimum neuromuscular efficiency
8. Improving overall function
It’s quite an impressive list right? Yet, why do so many of us get skip out on our flexibility?
The Different Types Of Stretching
Self Myofascial Release
We discussed the benefits of self myofascial release from foam rolling and the benefits are many. Self myofascial release is a technique that focuses on fibrous tissue (or “knots”) that surrounds and separates muscle tissue. Think of this type of stretching as getting a massage. Manual pressure helps to stimulate the gogli tendon organ which causes our muscles to relax. This is why people feel so good after a massage.
Another popular and newer way of this type of stretching is to use foam rolling for self myofascial release which from applying pressure to muscle groups from foam rollers or other similar objects such as a tennis ball or golf ball can help stimulate relaxation.
How to do it: Generally, it takes about 20-30 seconds to stimulate relaxation – although it may take longer in some individuals who just take longer to consciously relax. Typically individuals locate the “knot” or area of tenderness then apply pressure to that area. This form of stretching is recommended prior to static flexibility training or before and after activity.
Static stretching is what most of us think about when we think of stretching. It’s when we take a certain muscle group to the point of feeling tension or a “stretch” and we hold it for a minimum of 20-30 seconds. For example, kneeling down to touch your toes. This type of stretching works in much of the same way that self myofascial release worse by causing the golgi tendon organ to cause muscle relaxation. This form of flexibility training is recommended to be done after self-myofascial release or to decrease the tension of a tight muscle before and after activity. However, using static stretching on a muscle group you’re intending to work out can decrease muscle force. For example, stretching the chest muscles in between sets of bench presses or pushups.
Active isolated stretching is a bit more advanced type of stretching from self-myofascial release or static stretching. This type of stretching causes motor neurons to become “excited” which causes the specific muscle group being stretched to become relaxed. The way active-isolated stretching works is by taking a muscle to a point of tension and holding it for two seconds and then releasing the tension for a total of five to ten sets. Since an active-isolated stretching technique is somewhat hard to describe, I’ll let YouTube handle this one:
Dynamic stretching is one of my favorite forms of flexibility training. In fact, I use this type of stretching every time I work out. This type of stretching uses movements that mimic the exercises to be performed to assist with stretching and it’s a great pre-workout form of stretching. Doing so takes the body through a full range of motion. Examples of this type of stretching include walking lunges or body weight squats. One can perform walking lunges or body weight squats in sets of ten for a few reps.
Ballistic stretching is another form of stretching that I love. Ballistic stretching is a form of movement that is commonly used in athletic drills that triggers the stretch reflex to decrease muscle tension and range of motion. Because this type of movement can take a muscle to a point of tension, the risk of injury is greater and shouldn’t be done by those with poor flexibility or by those who haven’t warmed up. A “cold” muscle could lead to a muscle tear by this form of stretching. High leg kicks are an example of ballistic stretching:
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching
This type of stretching works in much of the same way within the body that static stretching works. To be most effective, PNF is usually completed with another person to enhance the effectiveness of this type of stretch. Here is PNF stretching explained:
Things To Keep In Mind When Stretching
Active isolated stretching and dynamic stretching should only be done if you have no posture distortions. For example, if during your walking lunge your form is off, you’re doing no benefit to your body. The same can be said while if you’re doing bodyweight squats you can’t keep your feet flat on the ground, you need to correct the movement first. It’s best that you regress yourself and correct your form and posture before continuing to active isolated or dynamic stretching. Ballistic stretching should only be done after warmed up and for those who already have good range of motion.
What type of flexibility training do you use most often and what has worked the best for you? From my personal experience, the combination of foam rolling, static, dynamic, band ballistic, stretching has helped me with multiple strength gains and also to increase my running stride length.