3 Types of Stretching Exercises You Should Be Doing

A woman doing stretching exercises

When most people think about stretching exercises, they think of things like touching your toes or doing a quick quad stretch before heading out on a run. They don’t realize that there are different types of stretching, each of which come with their own benefits.

I recently completed a course on Integrative Flexibility Training as part of my NASM continuing education requirements, and I learned a ton about the different ways to stretch and the reasons why you ought to do each type, so I thought I’d share a little with you here. Read on to learn about three types of stretching exercises that you ought to start adding to your routine.

Static Stretching Exercises

Static stretching is one of the most well-known types of stretching. It involves holding a stretch for an extended period of time (about 20-30 seconds).

You probably did this in your gym class when you were in school. It’s also commonly used as part of corrective flexibility programs.

Why Is Static Stretching Important?

Static stretching allows you to utilize a neurophysiological principle known as autogenic inhibition. Autogenic inhibition promotes the relaxation of and increases the extensibility (ability to be stretched) of your muscle tissues. It occurs when the neural impulses that sense tension in a muscle are stronger than and override the impulses that cause a muscle contraction.

When to Practice Static Stretching

You won’t often see static stretching included in a pre-workout warm-up routine. It’s more commonly done after a workout as part of a cool-down routine. It can also be done on its own.

Static stretching relaxes the muscles and increases your range of motion. It doesn’t necessarily help you to control your muscles in that new range of motion, though. This, in turn, could hinder your ability to perform well during your workout, and it could increase your injury risk.

There is an exception to this rule. If you have a lot of tightness or overactivity in a particular muscle group, then it can make sense to do some static stretching of those muscles prior to your workout.

After you do static stretching, it’s important to follow up with active-isolated or dynamic stretching (more on those below). This helps you to increase muscle activation and ensure you’re prepared for the demands of your workout.

Active-Isolated Stretching Exercises

Active-isolated stretching involves moving in and out of a particular range of motion and holding the end range of that stretch for about 1-2 seconds. It involves engaging agonist and synergist muscles so the antagonist can be stretched. For example, if you engage your quadriceps and hip flexors while doing a lying hamstring stretch, this allows for a deeper stretch in the hamstring.

Why Is Active-Isolated Stretching Important?

Active-isolated stretching helps to improve muscle tissue extensibility. It does this by utilizing a neurophysiological principle known as reciprocal inhibition. Basically, certain muscles are tightened so that others can lengthen.

When to Practice Active-Isolated Stretching

Active-isolated stretching is a more appropriate way to warm-up before a workout (assuming you don’t have any significant muscle imbalances that you’re working to correct).

Active-isolated stretching helps to prepare your muscles for a workout and make sure everything is firing properly. It improves tissue extensibility but helps you ensure you’re only moving through a range of motion that you can control.

You can also do active-isolated stretching on its own. It’s great for days when you want to focus exclusively on your mobility.

Dynamic Stretching Exercises

Finally, we have to talk about dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves using a muscle’s force production and the body’s momentum to move joints through a full range of motion. An example of dynamic stretching is an exercise like prisoner squats.

Why Is Dynamic Stretching Important

Dynamic stretching helps to warm the muscles up and get them ready to work without altering length-tension relationships or hindering their function. It further prepares your body for the exercises you’re about to put it through and increases your overall body temperature, too.

When to Practice Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is another good option to do before a workout. Many people like to start the warm-up with static and/or active-isolated stretching and then finish up with some dynamic stretches before getting into their training session.

Like the other types of stretching, you can also practice dynamic stretching on its own when you want to focus on mobility or have a low-impact, flexibility-focused workout.

Try These Types of Stretching Today

There you have it: three essential types of stretching exercises that you can incorporate into your pre- and post-workout routines. Give them a try during your next training session and let me know how it goes!

Feel free to comment down below if you have any other questions about flexibility, mobility, strength training, or anything else!

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