Static stretching is the simplest method of stretching. I recommend this type of stretch AFTER your workout has been completed. It can be done immediately after or several hours later. The key to static stretching is what I call the BREATHING STRETCH. It is as simple as this:
Place your body part into a position of gentle stretch.
Take a deep breath in.
Exhale and increase the stretch position ever so slightly. Just take what your body will give you. THIS SHOULD BE COMFORTABLE, NOT PAINFUL! DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH!
Repeat this process until you can no longer increase your range of motion. It may be two cycles or 10 cycles, again, just take what your body gives you.
Sport Stretch, Michael Alter, Human Kinetics
ACTIVE ISOLATED STRETCHING (AIS)
AI is a unique, active way to stretch muscles developed by Aaron Mattes (www.stretchingusa.com). It uses an active contraction of the muscle OPPOSITE to the one being stretched. For example, if you lie on your back and raise one leg as high as you can, eventually you will feel the stretch in the rear thigh (hamstring), but you are contracting the front thigh and hip muscles (quadriceps and hip flexor muscles) to raise the thigh. It is this contraction of the opposing muscle group that allows a greater stretch in the muscle being stretched. It would be very helpful to get an anatomy book and learn the different muscles and their function.
Here are the rules for AIS:
Determine which muscle you wish to stretch and the opposing muscle you are going to contract. Make a mental picture in your head BEFORE you start the stretch.
Actively contract the opposing muscle BEFORE you start the stretch movement.
Maintain the contraction throughout the entire movement.
When you reach the end of the movement (as far as you can go COMFORTABLY), maintain that position for no more than 2 seconds. Maintain the contraction of the opposing muscle for those 2 seconds.
Release the contraction and return to the starting position.
Exhale during the stretching phase and inhale during the recovery phase. DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH!
Repeat the process 10 times and with each subsequent stretch attempt to increase the range of motion each time.
STRETCHING SHOULD NOT CAUSE PAIN!
Specific Stretching For Everyone, Aaron Mattes www.stretchingusa.com
The Whartons’ Stretch Book, Jim and Phil Wharton, Three Rivers Press
Facilitated Stretching is another type of active stretching developed by physicians and therapists over the last 50 years. The method I describe below uses active motion and isometric muscle contraction to improve flexibility. Another name for facilitated stretching is CRAC – contract relax antagonist contract. You will need a strap (Stretch Out Strap) or partner for many of the stretches. Using the same example as in the AIS section, lie on your back with the strap around your foot and actively contract the hip flexor muscles to lift your leg to the point when you feel a stretch in the hamstring. Do not just pull your leg up with the strap. At this point, keep your leg in this position and push your heel into the strap toward the floor for 5-10 seconds. Now you are contracting the SAME muscle you are stretching. Then, release the contraction and ACTIVELY raise your leg higher; use your hip flexor muscles, not the strap. This will be repeated several times.
Here are the rules for Facilitated Stretching:
Determine which muscle you wish to stretch. Make a mental picture in your head BEFORE you start the stretch.
Actively contract the opposing muscle to move your limb or body to the point when you feel a MILD stretch.
Contract the muscle you are stretching into the strap or your partner and hold for 5 – 10 seconds. The force of the contraction should be relevant to the condition of the muscle. For example, if the muscle has been injured, do not apply a maximum contraction.
Release the contraction and use the opposing muscles to move your limb or body to the point when you feel the stretch again.
Inhale during the contraction phase (when you are contracting the muscle being stretched) and exhale during the lengthening phase (when you are contracting the opposing muscle group). DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH!
Repeat this process until you can no longer increase your range of motion. It may be two cycles or 10 cycles, just take what your body gives you.
STRETCHING SHOULD NOT CAUSE PAIN!
Facilitated Stretching, Robert McAtee and Jeff Charland, Human Kinetics