Mobility and flexibility exercises help an individual move better so they can train harder the next time around. One of the best ways to warm-up, cool down, and recover is by stretching.
But stretching isn’t that simple. There are several different types of stretches that all have specific uses. When we think of stretching, we usually flashback to gym class and static stretches (the most common form). However, there are five (5) different types of stretches that can help you in your fighting game.
5 Different Types of Stretches
1. Active Stretches
Active stretches help improve the flexibility of a certain body part by working a specific muscle group while its opposing muscle group relaxes.
Examples of Active Stretches
Runner’s lunge hold
Sumo squat hold
2. Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic-based stretches focus on using movement to take the muscles through their full range of motion to actively warm them up and get them loose for activities. Dynamic stretching is the best way to warm up for a workout. Dynamic stretches can also be used as a cool down.
Examples of Dynamic Stretches
Spiderman lunge to thoracic rotation
3. Static Stretches
When most people hear the term "stretching," they think of static stretches. Static stretching focuses on holding a position, usually near the muscle’s end range of motion, for a set period of time. As we mentioned earlier, this is the perfect form of stretching to do after a workout as a cool down.
Examples of Static Stretches
Single leg quad stretches
4. Isometric Stretches
Similar to static stretches, isometric stretches involve activating the stretched muscle to further elongate the muscle fibers.
Examples of Isometric Stretches
Side plank hold
Low squat hold
5. Passive Stretches
Passive stretches are another great type of relaxed, static stretches. To perform passive stretches, assume a position and hold it using another body part or object, or with the assistance of a partner.
Examples of Passive Stretches
Standing hamstring stretch
Lying hamstring stretch
Overall Benefits of Stretching
Adding a regular stretching routine to your workout can play a vital role in your overall wellness. Here are some of the benefits of stretching:
Helps improve athletic performance
Reduces risk of injury
Reduces inflammation and increases blood flow
Reduces muscle soreness and immobility
Provides mental well-being and mood boost
Let's break it down a little bit further and go through some of the do’s and don'ts of stretching.
The Stretching Do’s
Stretching is great for the body, but doing so with cold muscles can actually negatively impact performance. Even if you incorporate stretching into your warm-up routine, you should still warm up your muscles a bit before launching into a full on stretching session. Otherwise, you run the risk of injury.
Do Go Slowly
Starting out, you are not going to be a yogi. Take your time and control your movements. Stretching is not about speed. Sometimes it can take a while for your muscles to relax enough to really get into the stretch. Executing slow movements helps your body adapt and work into the stretch.
Do It Continuously
Like anything, you need to be consistent in order to see results. You should incorporate stretching into your everyday routine, even if you’re taking a rest day. Stretching is a great way to keep your muscles limber and pliable.
Do Stretch After Workouts
It’s just as important to stretch after your workout as before. Stretching post-workout encourages blood flow to your muscles and kickstarts the healing process. This will help with muscle growth and development. Plus, it’s a great cool down routine!
Do Stretch If You Have Poor Posture
The average American spends 6.5 hours sitting each day, which can ultimately lead to poor posture and stiff muscles. Stretching is an easy way to help combat this. If you find yourself sitting all day in front of a computer, take breaks every so often and do a few stretches before launching back into work.
The Stretching Don’ts
Slow controlled, static stretches are the goal. If you bounce when you stretch, you can increase tightness in your muscle and increase your risk of injury. Remember, it’s not about how deep you can stretch or how fast you can stretch. It’s about listening to your body and easing into the movements.
Don't Forget To Breathe
The purpose of stretching is to elongate your muscles. Holding your breath causes muscle tension. Just like with stretches, focus on slow, controlled breaths for optimal performance and effectiveness.
Don't Stretch Right When You Wake Up
Ultimately, it is best to wait 30-60 minutes after you wake up to get your blood flowing and your nervous system firing before you start to stretch. Even better, foam rolling first for proper blood flow activation is a better alternative. Then you can ease into your stretching routine.
Don't Stretch To The Point of Pain
No pain no gain is an outdated expression. If it hurts, stop! Just as with everything, listen to your body and don’t push it. If the pain continues or gets worse, it may be time to see a professional.
Your Ultimate Stretching Guide
As you can see there are many types and benefits of stretching and hopefully, this will serve as a guide to help you get stretching into your fitness routine.
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