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Static Stretching Explained

When most people think of stretching, they are thinking of static stretching. This form of exercise involves getting into a stretch position and holding that position with no movement for a specific amount of time. Some examples of this method of stretching are listed below.

What It IS

A Static stretch is performed by placing the body into a position whereby a muscle is put under tension with the idea of it being stretched. Both the antagonist, or opposing muscle group and the agonist, or muscles to be stretched, are relaxed. The body is slowly moved until until the targeted muscle comes under a gentle tension. The position is then held for a period of time until the muscle relaxes and lengthens.

Static stretches are very safe and effective form of stretching with minimal threat of injury. It is a good choice for beginners and sedentary individuals.

Passive Stretching

Passive stretching is very similar to static stretching with one key difference. With passive stretching another person or apparatus is used to help further stretch the muscles. As an outside force is used the chance of injury is increased somewhat. If an apparatus is used it is important that it be solid and stable. If a person is helping the movements must be slow and controlled as opposed to quick and jerky.

Passive stretching is useful in helping to attain a greater range movement but does run the higher risk of injury. It can also be used effectively as part of a rehabilitation program or as part of a cool down.

Active Stretching

Unlike passive stretching active stretching is performed without aid or assistance from any kind of external force. This form of stretching involves only using the strength of our opposing muscles (antagonist) to generate a stretch within the target muscle group (agonist). The contraction of the opposing muscles helps to relax the muscles being stretched. An example of this stretch is kicking your leg straight out in front of you as high as possible. The idea is to hold this position without any assistance from a partner or object.

Active stretching is beneficial as a form of rehabilitation and a very effective form of conditioning before moving onto dynamic stretching exercises. This type of stretching is usually difficult to hold and maintain for long periods of time and therefore the stretch position is usually only held for 10 to 15 seconds.

PNF Stretching

PNF Stretching, or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contracting of the muscle group being targeted. PNF stretching was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation for which it is very effective. It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups in order to increase flexibility (range of motion) and strength.

Isometric Stretching

Isometric Stretching involves assuming a static stretching position and then contracting the targeted muscle as intensely as possible for 20 to 30 seconds. At that point the muscle is allowed to relax and then the body is moved until the muscle again comes under a slight tension, at which point the isometric contraction is repeated.

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