We won’t dive too much into the science here, but there is a dramatic difference between different types of stretching and mobility work! With this opening, I am sure the next question coming to mind is “So what type should I do?”
The answer is simple, yet complex… ALL OF THEM!
Each variation does in fact have an effect on different aspects of the muscle, tendon, nervous system, and fascia. What type is needed more is completely dependent on you, your connective tissue makeup, and present neural capacity to improve range of motion without threat of injury. We are all unique snowflakes!
Below is a list (not fully comprehensive) of stretching approaches that may be utilized.
The names vary (depending on who you talk to), but the principles are universal. Remember, movement is something that has been part of the human experience since we have been in existence. There really is no “original thought” when it comes to movement, exercise, stretching etc. The original thought only lies in the application of the tools we have at hand.
Static Stretching – has shown to elongate tissue and decrease resistance to stretch. This does not mean it can increase the dynamic flexibility in proportion to the static flexibility changes. Static stretching may help with soreness, spasm relief, healing after injury, etc. Duration of stretch should be a minimum of 30 seconds.
Static Active Stretching – increases both static active range of motion and static passive range of motion. For example, bringing your leg up high and then holding it there without anything (other than your leg muscles themselves) to keep the leg in that extended position. Many movements seen in yoga can be classified as static active stretching. Ideal duration of holds should be 10-15 seconds.
Dynamic Stretching – consists of controlled motions that take you to the limit of your range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or “jerky” movements. An example would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists. Dynamic stretching improves dynamic flexibility and is quite useful as part of your warm-up. Ideal repetition range is 10-12.
Ballistic Stretching – uses the momentum of a moving body or a limb in an attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion. This is stretching, or “warming up”, by bouncing into (or out of) a stretched position, using the stretched muscles as a spring which pulls you out of the stretched position… (e.g. bouncing down repeatedly to touch your toes.) This type of stretching does show consequence in that it can easily lead to injury if performed incorrectly. It does not allow your muscles to adjust to, and relax in, the stretched position. It may instead cause them to tighten up by repeatedly activating the stretch reflex.
Isometric Stretching – a very efficient and effective form of stretching that increases static passive ranges of motion in dramatic fashion (if performed properly, consistently, and with time). Isometric stretches also help to develop strength in the “tensed” muscles (which may help to develop static-active flexibility), and seems to decrease the amount of pain that may be experienced with stretching. Effective protocols may vary, but we tend to go with a 15-30 second contraction, followed by a 20-30 second relaxation. This type of stretching can be intense and should be performed after training, or as a training session in and of itself.
PNF Stretching – is a combination methodology of isometric and passive stretching. As with isometric stretching, protocols vary depending on who you reference or talk to. Passively Stretching to an end range for 30-90 seconds, followed by a 10-20 second contraction – performed for 3 rounds – is one approach.
PNF Stretching with a Static Active Component – This methodology starts essentially with the “PNF” setup with the static active holds as a way to “pull” yourself deeper into a range of motion.
Loaded Stretching – this is an advanced approach to improve range of motion (and strength, through range of motion and particularly at end ranges) utilizing load to assist. This will be a topic intend to expand upon in the near future…