Stretching before your workout is just as important as the workout itself. It can prevent injury, reduce post-workout discomfort and reduce the likelihood of muscle spasms. Stretching can also be dangerous if not performed correctly. Flexibility training should be approached by addressing the specific needs of the individual.
There are four main categories for stretching techniques:
- neuromuscular facilitation.
This type of stretching employs the repetitive rapid application of force one would experience in a bouncing or jerking maneuver. The momentum of the movement carries the body part through the range of motion until the muscles are stretched to their limits. This method is less effective than the other methods listed here because of the fact the muscle will contract under stresses to protect itself, which can prevent a full stretch, or overstretching.
This technique employs a partner or therapist to apply a stretching force to a relaxed joint or body part. This method is most appropriate with good communication between both parties and slow, progressive application of force to prevent injury.
Static stretching is performed by applying a steady force for a period of 15-60 seconds. This is the easiest and safest type of stretching and probably the most common. This is most often used as a warm up and is typically associated with decreased muscle soreness after exercise
This particular method requires a trained therapist or trainer. The specific activities most frequently used include “hold-relax” and “contract-relax” techniques – in other words, isometric or concentric contractions followed by passive or static stretch. The efficacy of neuromuscular facilitation as a method of increasing flexibility is well documented.