When most people think of stretching, they are thinking of static
stretching. This form of exercise involves getting into a stretch
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
Static stretches are very safe and effective form of
minimal threat of injury. It is a good choice for beginners and
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
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, 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 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.