Stretching is beneficial before, during, and after your workout – it takes minimal energy so it won’t negatively affect your training. There are 4 main stretching which has different effects and different ways of stretching.
Passive stretching is often referred to as “static stretching,” and is the type we most often think of. A passive stretch is one in which you hold the stretched position for 15 to 30 seconds. Slow, relaxed static stretching can relieve spasms in muscles that are healing after an injury. It also relaxes your body after a workout. I suggest that you save the static stretches until after your workout. Your muscles will be fully warmed up and it will be easier to hold the positions.
Isometric stretching is a type of passive stretching that involves using the resistance of other muscle groups, a partner or a stationary object. The stretching positions are held for a much longer time than with passive stretching because the ultimate aim is to improve overall flexibility and strength.
An example of a partner-assisted stretch would be holding your leg up high and having your partner push it toward you while you try to force it back down to the ground. An example of using a stationary object would be the wall stretch for shoulders. You place your hand against a doorway or beam and then push forward leading with your shoulder.
Ballistic stretching uses the weight and momentum of a moving body to force the muscle beyond its normal range of motion. Essentially, you are bouncing into (or out of) the stretched position, using the stretched muscles as springs that pull you out of the stretched position. This type of stretching is really only useful for high performance athletes, because the risk of injury is too great for most people. It doesn’t allow your muscles to adjust to the stretched position and relax. Instead, it may cause them to tighten up even more. Unless you are in excellent physical shape to begin with or play intense sports (hockey, rugby, basketball, etc.), avoid ballistic stretching.
Dynamic stretching involves gradually increasing the distance and speed of a muscle’s range of motion. Please don’t confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching. Dynamic stretching consists of controlled movements that take you to the very limits of your range of motion. Ballistic stretches involve trying to force a muscle beyond its natural range of motion. In dynamic stretching, there are no bouncing or sudden movements. A good example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists.
- Hamstring Stretch
Sit on the floor and place the leg you wish to stretch straight out in front of you. Then bend the other leg alongside to make a triangle with your legs. With a straight back and straight knee, bend from your hips, and reach for the toe of your straight leg with both hands and hold for 20 seconds.
- Lying Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back and pull your leg in toward your chest. Clasp both hands behind your knee. Slowly extend the leg up. Try to straighten your knee as much as possible. Gently pull your (straight) leg toward your chest, and wrap your hands around your ankle. Hold for 10 seconds and then try to bring the leg further in toward your chest. Hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
- Achilles’ Stretch
Stand facing a wall with one leg in front of the other. Your front knee is bent and your hands are on the wall. Your back leg is straight and your heel is held flat on the floor. Lean toward the front knee, keeping the back foot and heel flat. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat with the other leg.
- Quadriceps Stretch
Stand leaning against a wall or other upright with one hand. Wrap your other hand around the ankle and pull the heel to the butt, feeling the stretch in the top of the leg. Try to keep your knees together. Concentrate on pulling the heel into the butt. To maximize the stretch, tuck your pelvis in and gently push your hips out.
- Groin Stretch
Sit on the floor. Put the soles of your feet together, with your knees as close to the ground as possible and pointed outward. Grasp your ankles, pull in toward your groin and hold that position for a count of 10. Relax and repeat three times.
- Spread Groin Stretch
Begin in a seated position with your legs spread apart, feet facing directly forward. Try to reach the inside of your ankles. Bend forward from the hips, keeping your knees straight. Hold until you feel tightness on the inside of your legs. Relax and repeat.
- Calf Stretch
Get into a push-up position, but put one knee on the ground. Put your weight on the toes of your other foot and then push the heel down until you feel a slight pull. Hold that position for a count of 10. Relax and repeat three times with each leg.
- Back Stretch
Lie on your back, grasp one leg behind the knee and pull toward your chest, lifting your butt off the ground. Keeping your other leg straight and your head on the ground, hold this position for a count of 10. Repeat three times with each leg.
- Chest Stretch
Grab a stationary upright with one hand, and with your arm locked out straight, gently turn away. Hold for a count of 10 and then switch arms.
- Shoulder Stretch #1
Move one shoulder toward the other, keeping your arm parallel to the floor. Grasp the elbow of that arm with your other hand and gently pull toward your opposite shoulder. Hold for a count of 10. Repeat three times with each arm.
- Shoulder Stretch #2
Interlace your fingers above your head, palms facing up. Push your arms up and back gently. Hold for 15 seconds.
- Biceps Stretch
Place your hand on a wall. Lean forward with your feet positioned slightly away from the wall. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other arm. Alternate the stretch on each arm three times.
- Triceps Stretch
Take one arm overhead and bend it at the elbow. Standing as straight as possible, gently press down on the elbow with your other hand until you feel a stretch at the back of your upper arm.