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It is time to forget everything your high-school gym coach or workout partner ever told you about stretching. Some of us stretch before we run/workout, some after you run/workout, and some not at all. Which is best? And what does “stretching” mean anyway? First, defining some terms will be helpful: Flexibility - The ability to move a joint, or series of joints through a full, non restricted, pain-free range of motion.

Range of Motion - The degree of movement that can occur in a joint.

Static Stretching - Slowly elongating a muscle group and holding it in the stretched position for a period of time with the goal of increasing the length of the muscle. For example, holding a stretch of your hamstrings for 30 seconds and repeating that several times.

Dynamic Stretching - Actively contracting and relaxing muscle groups in order to increase flexibility. This can include ballistic stretching, PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), and AIS (Active Isolated Stretching).

Ballistic Stretching - Ballistic stretching uses the momentum of a moving body or a limb in an attempt to force it beyond its normal range of motion.

PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) - Alternating contraction and relaxation of both agonist (muscle you want to stretch) and antagonist (muscle that does the opposite of the muscle you want to stretch) muscles.

AIS (Active Isolated Stretching) - Uses an active contraction of the muscle opposite to the one being stretched. Each stretch is held for about two seconds.

Warm-up - A series of movements designed to prepare for athletic activity. It may include any or all types of stretching.

Prepare to Load - This is my favorite term for preparing your body for a training session or competition day. Since training and competition load the body (i.e. you will be exerting a force) your body must be ready.

In the next post we will clear up some of the confusion based on the definitions above.

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