Ultimate Athlete: 7 Rules to Improving Flexibility
Can't touch your toes? Learn how to work flexibility training into your routine without foregoing strength or size.
Different Stretches for Different Folks
The traditional method that comes to mind when thinking about stretching is referred to as static stretching - where a lifter bends forward and holds a hamstring stretch for 20-30 seconds. In fact, there are several stretching methods that each has their own unique benefit.
Static stretching consists of the lifter holding a joint in a stretched position for a designated length of time (usually 20-30 seconds) allowing the muscle to slowly adapt to the new range of motion. This is a passive stretch in that the muscle is relaxed throughout the entire exercise.
Dynamic stretching consists of moving the body through an increased range of motion using bodyweight movements like squats and lunges. By moving the body in multiple planes of motion, dynamic stretching helps prepare your body for a hard training session. Dynamic stretching is considered an active stretch since the muscle is contracting and relaxing.
Ballistic stretching involves forcibly moving your body into a greater stretch usually by performing quick, powerful movements. A prime example would be bobbing up and down in an attempt to touch your toes. In general, this type of stretching increases chance of injury and does little to actually improve flexibility. Rather, it can cause muscles to tighten up significantly.
There are various other advanced stretching techniques that combine elements of both passive stretching and active stretching, typically performed with the help of a therapist.