Whether you are going to do a workout routine or participate in a sport or other type of physical activity, it is important to stretch before you start. It's also a key element of recovering from most types of muscle injury and easing the discomfort of conditions like chronic back pain. Prior to starting a stretching routine, you should be aware that there are actually several different kinds of stretching exercises.
Static stretching: This involves stretching a muscle and holding the position for anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. It is important that you do not hold your breath, bounce or make any jerking movements while maintaining this stretch. When you stretch you will want to feel the muscle pull gently, but never ever to the point of causing pain.
Passive stretching: This is fairly similar to static stretches, except that it entails some type of stretching equipment or another person to apply the tension.
Dynamic stretching: Unlike static stretches, here you will incorporate controlled movement into the stretch. For instance, as part of the stretch you would slowly, and under complete control, add in some deliberate arm or leg swinging, along with some torso twists.
Ballistic stretching: This form of stretching is generally reserved for athletes participating in intense activities. Ballistic stretching utilizes bouncing movements within the stretch so as to push a muscle beyond the range of motion that you would usually get in a normal stretch, like bouncing in order to touch the toes again and again. The possibility of injury is quite high with this approach, so it should only be performed by those who know what they are doing.
Active isolated (AI) stretching: This is the latest concept in stretching, which is based on the idea that stretches should only be held for a maximum of two seconds to avoid stretching at the same time as the muscle is contracting in response to the stretch.
Isometric stretching: This stretching technique combines tensing or isometric contractions with regular stretching so as to increase resistance within the stretch. You can provide the resistance using your hands, having a partner to hold the body part being stretched, or with the assistance of some stable object such as a wall.
PNF or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation: This form of stretching was originally created to be used with physical therapy and rehabilitation, and uses a mix of both isometric and passive stretches.
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