Recently, a video surfaced featuring a man doing a split between two chairs while lifting a 100 LB dumbbell above his head. While I don’t condone this practice by any means (this is extremely dangerous to do), it did a great job of showcasing the fact that it’s possible to achieve both strength and flexibility. Jukin Media uploaded the video that supposedly features a bodybuilder trying to raise awareness for, “Hardcore Stretching” by performing this unbelievable feat.
Although I have no advice for attempting what this man performed in this video, it is a great springboard for discussing the basics of stretching. There are two main categories of stretching : dynamic and static. As you can imagine, dynamic stretches involve movement whereas static stretches involve holding a position. These categories can be broken down further into the following subcategories:
Ballistic Stretching utilizes the momentum generated by the body or a limb in an attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion. This type of stretching can often lead to injury – especially if you aren’t warmed up as it doesn’t let the muscles adjust to or relax in the stretched position. Instead, ballistic stretching cause the muscle to do the complete opposite and tighten up instead.
Dynamic Stretching involves moving parts of your body while gradually increasing the reach or speed of the movement, or both. Although both Ballistic and Dynamic stretching involve movement, the key difference is that dynamic stretching is controlled and gradual where ballistic stretches are neither.
Active Stretching or “static-active stretching” involves assuming a position then holding it with no assistance other than using the strength of your agonist muscles.The tension of these muscles in an active stretch helps to relax the muscles being stretched (the antagonists). Many of the poses in various forms of yoga are active stretches.
Passive Stretching or “relaxed stretching” or “static-passive stretching”involves assuming a position then holding it with a different part of your body, or with the help of a partner or aid. A split is an example of a passive stretch (in this case the floor is the “aid” utilized to stay in the pose).
Static Stretching – some people use the terms “passive stretching” and “static stretching” interchangeably, but others suggest a difference between them. According to those that see these terms as unique; static stretching involves holding a position whereas passive stretching is a technique in which you are relaxed, but don’t actively contribute to the range of motion.
Isometric Stretching falls under the category of static stretching. This type of stretching involves the resistance of muscle groups through tensing or contracting stretched muscles. This type of stretching is a quick way to enhance static-passive flexibility.
PNF Stretching is an effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is not a type of stretching. Instead it is a technique that combines passive and isometric stretches in a way that will achieve the most static flexibility possible. PNF stretching is often performed with partners and the combination of stretches usually involves the; hold-relax, the hold-relax-contract or the hold-relax-swing.
There is discussion over the best point in your workout to perform stretching. Most agree that post-workout is the best time to do a full stretch routine because your muscles are warm, but others contend that if you are doing a more restorative/realignment series of stretches, it’s critical to do this before your workout. Another factor that is important to consider is the type of workout meant to accompany your stretching. Because of this, make sure that you consult with your physician and a professional before starting a new routine to make sure that you maintain proper form and are doing the best thing for yourself.