Guide to different types of stretches

Posted by: Chen Zen

Guide to different types of stretches - 02/18/06 03:28 PM

It seems there are a lot of threads posted on wanting to know the difference between one sort of stretching or another and the benefits of them. So now I will give a short guide so that new comers here will have a basic idea of what they are reading in the forum. Also it will keep the same questions getting posted by fifteen different people at once.

We are going to cover 7 different forms of stretching. They are Ballistic, Dynamic, Active, Passive, Isometric, and PNF stretching.

Ballistic Stretching uses your moving body's momentum to force your muscles beyond their normal range of movement. For Example, Bouncing to touch your toes because you could not normally reach them. This type of stretching is useless and prone to injury and further tightening of the muscles.

Dynamic stretching is sometimes confused with ballistic stretching by a beginner. While dynamic stretching does use movement it does not go beyond the range of motion, it gently takes you to the limits of your motion. There are no bouncy or jerky movements. An example would be torso twist or controlled arm or leg swings. Dynamic stretching is great as a warm up tool before a strenous activity and it does also increase your dynamic flexibility.

Active Stretching is also known as Static-active stretching. An active stretch is one where you assume a position and then hold it there with no other assisstance than you own muscles. For example holding your leg out straight to your side and holding it there just using your legs muscles. These types of stretches are difficult to hold for more than ten seconds and dont need to be held for over fifteen seconds to reap the benefits. Not only will it help increase your active flexibility but also your muscle strength.

Passive stretching is also known as relaxed stretching, or static-passive stretching. A passive stretch is one where you assume a position and hold it with some outside assisstance. That assisstance would be in the form of a partner, another muscle group, or a stretching apparatus. Examples would be toe touches when you use your arms and hands to hold the position. Or the splits in which case the floor is your stretching apparatus. This type of stretching is useful for relieving muscle spasms, cutting down on after workout fatigue and for cooling down after a workout.

Static stretching is often used as passive stretching. However, some people make a distinction between the two. So, be observant of the conversation or literature when you consider this type of stretching. By those who would make a distinction between the two the definition of static stretching is that static stretching involves holding a position. You stretch to the farthest point and hold the stretch.
Their definition of a passive stretch would be a technique in which you are relaxed and make no contribution to the range of motion. Instead an external force is created by an outside agent either manually or mechanically.

Isometric stretching is a type of static stretching which involves the resistance of muscle groups through contractions and tensing of the stretched muscles. It is considered one of the fastest ways to develope increased static flexibility and is much more effective than either passive or active stretching alone. It also increases muscle strength and is said to reduce pain in stretching. It is recommended that you do some dynamic training before doing isometrics and it is recommended that you only do isometrics every 36 hours. To perform an isometric stretch assume a position of a passive stretch. Now flex the stretched muscle group making sure that you have some outside resisting force such as the floor. Hold the flex for ten to fifteen seconds. Then relax for about 20 seconds. 8-15 reps.

Last but not least we have PNF stretching. PNF is and acronym for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. It is not really a type of stretching but is a technique of combining passive stretching and isometric stretching. It was originally developed for stroke patients and is said to be the fastest and most effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. Usually done with a partner this involves Stretching the muscles passively, flexing isometrically, then stretching it again passively. Relax for twenty to thirty seconds and perform the next rep or muscle group.

Hopefully this will serve a a usefull guide so that newcomers can get a better insight in to whats what around here. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and enjoy the site. CZ
Posted by: Tezza

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 02/18/06 03:41 PM

Great post Chen Zen. May I just add that if you are new to stretching or want some more advanced stretches two books that I would recommend and I am sure that others will agree are Stretching Scientifically by Tom Kurz and also Ultimate Flexibility A Complete Guide to Stretching for martial arts by Sang H. Kim.
Posted by: Chen Zen

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 02/18/06 03:44 PM

Thank you. Those are good recommendations. Some of the imformation I posted above came from Kurz.
Posted by: ShaolinNinja

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 02/20/06 08:00 AM

Thought I'd add some more esoteric types of stretching for the sake of completeness:

Forced relaxation - This is isometric stretching in which the tension is held for as long as possible, until the muscles collapse in exhaustion and the stretch can be increased.
Fascial stretching/ Loaded passive stretching - This type of stretching is usually performed between sets of strength exercises in order to increase strength. It involves bearing a weight with a stretched muscle, so that the muscle is being passively stretched out by an external force, while it contracts. The purpose of this type of stretching is to stretch the fascia, the outer coating of the muscle, to allow for an increase in the mobility and size of the muscle.
Digital fascial planing - This type of stretching can be quite painful. It involves rubbing your knuckles (or something similar) along the length of a muscle which is under a fascial stretch. This helps to expand the fascia.
Active isolated stretching - This involves holding a passive static stretch for two seconds, relaxing for two seconds and repeating 2-15 times.
Shutdown threshold isometrics - When any muscle is forced to contract maximally for an extended period of time, the nervous system shuts it down in order to prevent a tendon rupture. This is known as the Golgi reflex. Shutdown threshold isometrics forces stretched muscles to contract very hard (much harder than in standard isometric stretching), usually by putting a heavy load on them. After a certain period of time - anything between thirty seconds and several minutes - the muscle will relax completely, allowing the stretch to be increased.
Plyometric stretching - This lies on the border between ballistic and dynamic stretching and, as such, can be tricky to perform safely. It involves swinging a limb at speed and pulling it back the moment it reaches the limit of its range of motion and the stretch reflex kicks in.
Microstretching - This is static passive stretching done very gently in a relaxed position (often seated or lying down) for 60 seconds. The idea is to allow for full relaxation of the muscle and allow for stretching of the muscle-tendon unit as a whole without the danger of damaging the tendon.

Chen Zen, your information was very good, but I have some small clarifications to make:
The main one is that in your explanation of isometric stretching, you forgot to mention that as you relax after tensing, you should immediately increase the amplitude of the stretch.
Your recommendations about time under tension and repititions for isometric stretching are fine in themselves, but a little too prescriptivist. The number of reps should be as many as you can while still being able to increase the amplitude upon relaxation. In my experience, tensions longer than 3-5 seconds give no advantages to flexibility, but will build more strength.
Lastly, your description of PNF sounds to me no different to isometric stretching, and indeed the two are most often used synonymously.
Posted by: MattJ

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 02/20/06 02:24 PM

Very good posts, guys!
Posted by: Dobbersky

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 04/04/06 08:18 AM

Hiya Guys, I was wondering I don't have much time to stretch at home but need to be able to kick to Head Hight in either front, side, back, side etc, my left leg is getting there for most of them but my right leg doesn't want to play. especially mawashi Geri any advise


Posted by: Chen Zen

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 04/04/06 10:01 PM

This thread that you have chosen to post your question on is just a guide. May I suggest to you that you start a new thread, asking these questions. I would put one here in the stretching forum and one in the body mechanics forum. Good Luck
Posted by: MattJ

Re: Guide to different types of stretches - 07/19/06 06:24 PM

Good website for flexibility info, courtesy of Tezza: