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Types of stretching

There are several different methods used for stretching our muscles, some have been taught to us from a very young age such as static stretches, while others we may be familiar with but don’t know the purpose of, such as Self-myofascial release, otherwise known as foam rolling. The following methods of stretching are the most used or referred to when doing any kind of warm-up or cool down exercises before/after a workout or participating in a sport:

Self-myofascial release (Foam rolling): Perform small continuous, back-and-forth movements on a foam roller or similar device, covering an area of 2 to 6 inches over the tender region for 30 to 60 seconds. While there is not enough research to point to the exact mechanisms of how SMR accomplishes its benefits, it is thought that this technique resets the proprioceptive mechanisms of the soft tissue. Preliminary evidence suggests that SMR helps reduce hypertonicity (tightness) within the underlying muscle and fascia, leading to improved mobility.

Static Stretches: Static stretching is probably the most familiar and time-honored type of stretching. This involves stretching a muscle to near its furthest point and then holding that position for at least 15 or 20 seconds. The emphasis is often to focus on a single muscle group with each stretch. Static stretches should be taken to the point of tension, performing a minimum of four repetitions.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF): PNF is a form of stretching designed to increase flexibility of muscles and increase range of movement. PNF is a progressive stretch involving muscle contraction and relaxation. Perform a hold-relax stretch, holding the isometric contraction of the agonist muscle for a minimum of six seconds, followed by a 10 to 30 second assisted or passive static stretch.

Dynamic and ballistic: This type of stretching can be effective for individuals participating in sports that require ballistic activities. Dynamic stretching increases range of motion while maintaining muscle tension, making it useful for general stretching, fitness enthusiasts and athletes. What is the difference between dynamic and ballistic stretching? Although both methods of stretching require movement and both are usually passive methods, one is safe, and one is less safe. Dynamic stretching refers to stretching by controlled, coordinated movement with a defined range of motion. Ballistic stretching refers to stretching in uncontrolled, uncoordinated movements, usually involving momentum, and bouncing. As should be clear by the definitions above, dynamic stretching can be safely employed and is often recommended as a warm-up prior to sports activity. This form of stretching is ideal for pushing blood to specific muscle group and making them more elastic prior to dynamic movement. Ballistic stretching can increase range of motion quickly but has a higher risk of injury than other effective techniques.

Self-myofascial release (SMR) and static stretching are good options to consider because both can be self-administered, which can be helpful when searching for daily mobility and flexibility exercises.

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