The Different Types of Stretches and When To Do Them

Every person’s health is benefited from getting an ample amount of exercise each week. Increasing your physical fitness is incredibly vital for living a healthier, more fulfilling life. While we often think of specific exercises when it comes to working out, such as running, weightlifting, biking, and similar activities, it’s important to never forget the importance of stretching. Many people think about stretching to warm up or cool down after an exercise, however, they don’t realize how many different types of stretching there are, and that many of them have a different purpose for our bodies. Understanding the differences between these flexibility techniques can help you discover which one best suits you. For the different types of stretches and when to do them, read below.

Static Stretching

Starting with one of the most common examples of stretching, static stretches work by extending your targeted muscle group to its maximum point for up to 30 seconds. The point of this stretch is to loosen up the muscles you have been working throughout your period of exercise. It will also help further your range of motion and increase your flexibility. Each day of exercise should target or use a specific set of muscles. After they have had a good workout, your muscles begin to tighten from the stress they have endured. Stretching these muscles for an extended amount of time will relieve this tension and prevent lactic acid from building up further in them. This can cause them to be soarer in the days you’ll be recovering from the workout. Since these stretches are meant to relieve the muscle of tension, they are meant to be specifically done at the very end of a workout.

Dynamic Stretching

Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching is not meant to use holds for an extended length of time. With these stretches, you should be using patterns of continuous movements that are the same as those you’ll be using in your workout. For example, a swimmer is likely to use circular arm motions similar to their swimming strokes. You can do this with any kind of exercise. Some other common examples are hips circles, lunge and twist, arm circles, arm swings, and spinal rotations, just to name a few. Since these are meant for warming up, dynamic stretches are done at the beginning of your workout. The stretches are meant to help loosen your muscles before use and get your blood pumping. This will help give your body more power, ultimately improving your performance during a workout. Dynamic stretching also keeps your muscles flexible which will prevent you from injuring yourself.

Ballistic Stretching

When learning about the different types of stretches and when to do them, ballistic stretching can be a bit confusing because of its similarities to dynamic stretching. Ballistic stretching is another type that’s meant to be done before you start your workout. The process uses fast and sudden movements. This stretch is used most often by athletes. One of its specific details is the extending of the parts of the body past their range of motion. This leads many to wonder how safe ballistic stretching really is. The truth is, it can be dangerous for the common person, especially those who lack experience in athletics. Some examples of its use are how ballerinas and basketball players perform these stretches to increase their flexibility which is believed to increase the momentum of jumping. Due to some studies suggesting ballistic stretches can weaken the hamstrings and lead to other muscle injuries, they are not recommended for the average person. This stretching method is best practiced by those properly trained by athletic coaches and specialists.

Active Isolated Stretching

This unique form of stretching was created by a kinesiologist to improve flexibility, reduce pain, and improve a person’s exercise performance without the risks of injury. Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) can be divided up into three parts. The first involves isolating the muscle you’re stretching by flexing one muscle to stretch the other one. For instance, to stretch your quadriceps, you need to flex your hamstrings. For the second part, you will flex, but only for a period two seconds. The third step of the process is to perform this 10 times. So, the whole process is doing 10 shot repetitious holds, rather than one long one like with static stretches. Each time you do these flexes, make sure to breathe in before and exhale during the stretch. This is the proper way of breathing, which pumps more oxygen through the body and increases your circulation. These stretches are completely safe to do on your own once you’ve learned the proper technique.

Myofascial Release

While technically a type of stretch, myofascial release is used as a type of physical therapy. The process is meant to ease and relieve tension and tightness in the area known as a trigger point. Myofascial release is used over a broad area of muscle and tissue, with a therapist finding the trigger point. This is why most of these treatments are only done during a professional massage therapy session. It is mostly used on people who suffer from myofascial pain syndrome. The name is a technical way to describe muscle pain. It specifically refers to pain and inflammation in the soft tissues of the body. These are the connective tissues that cover our muscles. The treatment process involves a therapist gently massaging the myofascial to feel for any areas that might be stiff or tight. The massage is performed through the application of manual, light pressure. The process can be repeated on the specific trigger point until the therapist can tell they’ve released all the tension.

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The Different Types of Stretches and When To Do Them