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Types of Stretching

What are the three types of flexibility techniques?

There are considered to be three main types of stretching methods for improving muscle flexibility. Each has its own uses and benefits:

  • Static stretching — consists of holding muscles in their maximal lengthened position (at the point of discomfort) for around 30 seconds. An example is bending over to touch your toes and holding this position.
  • Dynamic stretching — a method of stretching the muscle via movement of the limbs/joints. An example is swinging your leg back and forth in wide circles.
  • Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) — when the muscle is contracted in an already fully lengthened position and held briefly. This is usually done with help from a training partner or therapist. An example is someone lifting a leg straight up to contract the hamstrings as much as possible while a therapist resists the movement and assists the stretch for about 10 seconds.

How often should you stretch? 

If possible, do some type of stretching every day, whether it’s yoga, tai chi exercises or simple calisthenics you do at home. You don’t need to do a lot to reap the benefits. Just 10 minutes is enough to make a difference in mobility, balance and comfort.

Try doing stretches at roughly the same time each day so it becomes an engrained habit. You might choose to stretch after a morning workout or mid-day walk, after a hot shower, or before bed.

Should you stretch before or after working out?

Experts now believe that dynamic stretching should ideally be done briefly as part of a warm-up routine, and then static stretching should be done as part of a warm-down routine after working out.

While static stretching does have its perks after a workout (it can increase range of motion), dynamic stretching and PNF seem to be more effective as part of a warm-up, since both increase blood flow and oxygen to muscles and stimulate nerves more than static stretching. You can also incorporate foam roller exercise before workouts to improve blood flow and loosen up muscles and joints.

Overall, static stretching should be used after workouts to increase flexibility and range of movement, while more dynamic stretches should be done prior to sports or power workouts.

How long should you stretch?

When warming up, aim for five to 10 minutes of dynamic movements. After five to 10 minutes your muscles should feel a bit looser and warm.

After a workout, do another five to 10 minutes of static stretching or foam rolling as part of a cool-down routine.

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