The What, When, Why of Stretching

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Pixmac000084095298We have all heard about the importance of stretching.  And we all have our own theories when it is best to stretch, what stretches we should perform and how long we should be stretching. Recently, I learned that there have been many changes over the years in stretching recommendations.  There are actually two different types of stretches we can perform.

Learn the difference between active and passive stretching and when is the best time to perform each type.

Stretching – Active vs Passive

Stretching is vital to increasing flexibility and reducing soft tissue injuries. There are 2 main categories of stretches. Active or kinetic and passive or static stretches. Both types of stretches have benefits, but it is important to know which type is recommended for your particular needs.

Static stretches are typically recommended after exercising to relieve stiffness and soreness. They are also recommended on days of inactivity to increase flexibility of the tendons and muscle fibers, as well as increasing flexibility in the joints and ligaments. It is recommended to stretch and hold for a 30 count, then relax and stretch another body part for a count of 30. Standing straight leg toe touches are an example of static stretches. A person sitting on the floor with their legs forward and arms reaching out trying to touch their toes is another example of static stretches.

Active or kinetic stretches use motion to allow a controlled movement of the body or limbs through a normal and complete range of motion. Kinetic stretches are typically recommended prior to exercise, to stimulate and add flexibility to the muscles and joints. Most people consider kinetic stretches “warming up” the muscles. Kinetic stretching stimulates multiple body parts during one stretch. This type of stretching moves the ligaments, muscles, and tendons to a point of tautness and then back out of tension, and repeats the motion many times.

It is important to stretch the specific body parts that will be used during an activity prior to the actual exercise. Walking leg lunges is a kinetic stretch recommended for the lower body. It is recommended to perform prior to any activity that uses the lower body or legs. Slow, controlled, and complete motions are recommended to stretch and stimulate the muscle fibers properly. Kinetic stretches allow blood flow to the muscles, and it has been shown to increase athletic performance in explosive activities such as sprinting, jumping, weight lifting, and so on.

Jumping jacks have been used for decades in the military and they are still one of the best forms of kinetic stretches. It stimulates and stretches both the upper and lower body, while increasing the heart rate to allow increased blood flow to the muscles. It is important to limit the amount of kinetic stretches performed prior to an athletic event because it may cause fatigue if done excessively.

There are many forms of active and static stretches. Most people understand that it is important to stretch, but they don’t know what stretches to do or when to do them.

Many thanks to Dr. Kevin Owens, Chiropractor at Chiropractic Athletic Center, for this information on the proper stretching techniques. Click here to learn more about Dr. Kevin Owens and the Chiropractic Athletic Center.

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