There are different types of flexibility training that helps improve your range of motion and relieve muscle and tissue tension. Michael Clark, CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, recommends static and dynamic flexibility as two of the safest methods of stretching. However, you should perform each of these methods at certain times of your workouts to minimize the risk of injury.
Static flexibility is stretching one muscle or joint for a duration of time, usually about 30 seconds, according to Clark. This method relaxes the muscles by reducing the amount of neural stimulation which also lengthens any tightness in the muscles and tissues. You should perform static flexibility after your workout, not before, to cool down and relax your body. A sample static stretch would be the kneeling hip flexor stretch where you kneel on your right leg and place your left leg in front of you bent at 90 degrees. Shift your weight forward, and tighten your right butt to stretch your right hip flexors for 30 seconds.
Dynamic flexibility is moving one or more joints or muscles in their full range of motion repetitively with control, according to Clark. This method increase neural stimulation, prepares your mind and body for the upcoming workout or activity and increase body temperature. You should perform dynamic flexibility before your workout or activity. A sample dynamic stretch would be the standing trunk rotation where you turn your torso left and right while swinging your arms in the same direction as the turn.
Since your body moves in three primary directions, perform your stretches in all planes of motion that your joint allows, suggests physical therapist Chris Frederick, co-author of "Stretch to Win." For example, rather than stretching your shoulder in one direction, move your shoulder and together in various directions repetitively until it feels looser, such as over your head, out to the side, in front of you and across your body. Add a rotation to your arm and wrist as you move to experiment with different stretches.
If you stretch a muscle too far, your body contracts the muscle automatically that can cause the muscle to become tighter. This painful condition is called a stretch reflex that your body uses to protect itself from joint dislocation and muscle tears, according to physiologist Stuart Fox, author of "Human Physiology." Always start with a smaller range of motion and stretch before increasing the stretching degree.
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; Michael Clark
- Human Physiology, Ninth Edition; Stuart Ira Fox
- Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick