Flexibility, Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

Four types of stretching, which is the best?

Regardless of which physiotherapist you see or which sport you have played in your lifetime, you are bound to have heard or been told that stretching is good for you.

The truth? It is, BUT… there are different types of stretching and it is important you use the right type of stretching at the right time!

Being aware of the possible risks of each type of stretching could make a difference to your likelihood of injury or even your performance!

The main types of stretching are; Static, Dynamic, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation and Ballistic.

8stretching-istock159682821Static Stretching is the type of stretching that we all know well.  You tension a muscle until you feel a stretch, then hold for  a period of time (usually 20-30 seconds).

Pros:

  • Increases the extensibility of the muscle(s) stretched
  • With prolonged repetition can increase muscle length

Cons:

  • It can increase the risk of injury if done before exercise because of an increased risk of instability.
  • Has been shown to reduce muscle power by 7-8% and muscular endurance by up to 30% for up to 24 hours.

When is it appropriate? After exercise to release tightened muscles and if you are looking to increase overall flexibility and muscle length.

Dynamic stretching is a stretching technique that we may not all be familiar with.  It uses momentum to stretch a muscle for a short period within its range of motion.  Below is a video that runs through an example of a dynamic stretch.

 

Pros:

  • Has shown to improve muscular strength, power, endurance and agility
  • Appropriate during a pre-exercise warm up without compromising stability

Cons:

  • Does not provide an overall lengthening of muscles
  • Can be hard to perform without demonstration or clear instruction

When is it appropriate? Before exercise and daily during rehabilitation programs if appropriate.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is simply shortened to PNF.  It is a form of stretching with the aim of providing large increases in range of motion in a short time by contracting opposing muscles against a passive stretch, or in other words, pushing against a static stretch.

Pros:pnf-stretches

  • Can produce large increases in range of motion and muscle extensibility in a short time
  • Facilitates muscle inhibition to allow spasmodic or tight muscles relax

Cons:

  • Has the same effects on muscle power and endurance as static stretching
  • Can lead to injury if not performed correctly and safely

When is it appropriate? After exercise to release tightened muscles, to release muscle spasm and as part of exercise programs to increase flexibility and performance. It is, however, not always necessary and you should consult your physiotherapist on how to do these stretches correctly and to determine which stretches are most appropriate for you.

Ballistic Stretching is similar to static stretching, but involves a bouncing at end of range.  It is not Screen-Shot-2012-08-07-at-9_41_03-PM1recommended as it is not shown to have any lasting benefits and there is an increased risk of injury when performing the stretches.

For more examples of stretches, feel free to view some of our other posts by clicking the links below.

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2013/11/25/4-tips-for-effective-calf-stretching/

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/02/21/avoid-the-hump-the-stiff-thoracic-spine/

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/20/morning-stretches/

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/18/best-hamstring-stretching-technique/

Post by Mitchell Sandvoss (B. Physiotherapy)

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