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Types of Stretching

written by: Donna Clarke • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/18/2010

In any exercise regimen, stretching is beneficial to success. Understanding which style of stretch is best perform and how they benefit the body is equally as important. Knowing the types of stretching techniques and which one will work best for you is the key to stretching success.

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    Benefits of Stretching

    Whether an avid bicyclist, weightlifter, athlete, weekend hiker, power walker, or even a once in a while exercise enthusiast, stretching is a beneficial component to a more healthy body. Studies show stretching improves flexibility, increases circulation, aides in mobility, and even provides stress relief. With all the benefits of stretching, knowing which of the types of stretching is best for you is key to the greatest success.

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    Ballistic Stretching

    Back in the day, if you wanted to increase flexibility and get your body ready for a strenuous workout or activity, ballistic stretches were the place to begin. These stretches included a series of bouncing techniques to further enhance the degree, as well as the range, of the stretch. The ballistic stretch can often lead to tears of muscle and ligaments due directly to the bouncing included in the stretch and can cause an undo degree of stress on the area of the body being stretched. With the advent of safer and more controlled forms of stretching, ballistic stretching has diminished in popularity.

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    Dynamic Stretching

    If you are active in a sport and are seeking ways to improve performance within a specific sport or exercise, then dynamic stretching is the perfect type of stretching activity. Based on the concept of enhanced or exaggerated motion, dynamic stretching recreates the movements of a specific motion or exercise within a sport or fitness program, thus allowing the body to develop a greater range of motion and level of flexibility specific to a particular activity, sport or exercise. This technique is especially used by athletes or fitness enthusiasts as part of a fitness regimen prior to specific events.

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    Static Stretching

    As the name implies, the fundamental basis of static stretching is the ability to hold a stretch minimally past the point of tightness, for a specific block of time. Depending on the individual level of fitness, this static, or hold within the stretch can range from 10 to 60 seconds, but should never be for a longer duration. Unlike ballistic stretching which adds stress on the body with each pulse or bounce, static stretching allows a gentle stretch or pull to occur within a specific portion of the stretch, that being the hold. This stretch offers a carefully controlled and gentle expansion of mobility, motion and stress relief to specific portions of the body. A popular stretching technique, it is widely used in a variety of fitness and athletic regimens today.

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    Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation

    Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, is a technique similar in concept to static stretching in that it allows for a gentle push or pull on the area of the body to be stretched. The primary difference is that with PNF, a partner is involved to enable the push or pull. This can be achieved by the partner passively, by controlling the stretch, or more actively by being an active partner in a push or pull. With PNF, a greater sense of the stretch can be achieved due to the exertion provided by the presence of a partner. Having a partner has also proven to be a motivator with respect to maintaining a stretching program, however, it does preclude the program from occurring, should one person be unable to participate.

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    Start With A Stretch

    The benefits of stretching on overall health and well being are clear. With the many types of stretching techniques and styles available, it is easy to successfully incorporate a program into your daily fitness regimen. Just a few minutes each day is all it takes to begin feeling the benefits if stretching. Always remember to check with your physician, should you have any health concerns, and most importantly, have fun.

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Stretching: Focus on Flexibility - www.mayoclinic.com

    ExRx.net: Stretching and Flexibility - www.exrx.net