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The Different Kinds of Stretching


Stretching has numerous benefits and can be performed on its own, as part of a post-workout cool-down, or together with mindful breathing, meditative practice, or even with massage. We put most stretching at the end of the workout because some studies indicate stretching a muscle before exercising that same muscle can reduce its maximal strength and might even make the muscle more vulnerable to injury. On the other hand, recent research has suggested that stretching the opposite muscle before an exercise might give a small strength boost to the working muscle. Some muscles work to push away from the body and different muscles work to pull towards the body. For example, a strength trainee might stretch the chest muscles before doing a rowing movement that exercises the upper back.


You might have heard these terms for various techniques to stretch:

· Static Stretching is moving into a stretch position and holding it for a duration.

· Active Stretching involves the muscle actively exerting force to make it stretch more while it is being stretched. For example, lie on your back and bring one knee toward your chest. Grab the back of your thigh behind the knee with both hands. Now, attempt to straighten the leg while holding the thigh in. You will feel the muscle on the back of your thigh, the hamstring, actively stretching.

· Passive Stretching is done with assistance from a partner while the person stretching stays relaxed.

· Loaded Stretching involves a force such as a free weight, cable, or ones own bodyweight. The trainee contracts a stretching muscle isometrically to resist the force that is pushing toward an angle beyond the ROM. (Therefore, one should build up gradually and not choose a load that is too heavy.)

· Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation [PNF] Stretching involves contracting a muscle, then relaxing it as one moves into a more stretched position, and repeating the process until the target range of motion [ROM] is achieved.

· Dynamic Stretching is used in advanced athletic training and involves moving a joint with the muscle stretching at the limit of range of motion. It can carry a risk of injury if done improperly or without adequate warm up.


A good stretch routine can feel relaxing or invigorating. Stretching helps one maintain or increase range of motion (flexibility) and maintains the health of the joints. Some people find it can help with pain relief, and with relieving delayed onset muscle soreness [DOMS] by reducing the incidence of micro-spasms in the muscle. Stretching can help reduce tightness in muscles that can pull on the spine and cause back pain. Stretching also may help reduce injury in daily life by making movement of the joint less restricted by muscle tightness over time.


On myself I mainly do static stretches, but for a few muscle groups I sometimes use active and loaded stretches. For clients, it would depend on their needs, interests, and experience with stretching. I find discovering new stretches to be fun and enjoy teaching various stretches.


If you have any fitness questions, please feel free to contact me at 703-397-6687 or joel@activelivingfitness.coach.

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