The Benefits and Types of Stretching – By New Orleans Personal Trainer Gina Dubret

Although stretching can seem time consuming, it is a part of a workout that gets overlooked. The benefits of stretching can decrease your risk for injury, decrease chronic muscle tightness, decrease low back pain, relieve muscle soreness, improve posture, decrease stress, increase range of motion in your joints, and increase your ability to perform activities of daily living. The most commonly tight muscles are: upper trapezius, pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, erector spinae (lumbar), iliopsoas (hip flexors), hamstrings, gastrocnemius (calf muscle), and soleus (calf muscle). There are many different types of stretching: Static Stretching, Ballistic Stretching, Active and Passive Stretching, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF), and Myofascial Release.

Static stretching is a low intensity long duration stretch. The minimum time a static stretch should be held is 30 seconds. This method of stretching is the safest and most effective stretch for the majority of the population.

Ballistic stretching is a bouncing, pulsing, rapid type of stretch with uncontrolled movements. This type of stretching is most commonly used by athletes and is not recommended very the general population. Ballistic stretching puts more tension on the muscles and can cause tears or injuries in the muscles.
Active stretching is a type of stretch that is performed alone using a concentric contraction of the opposing muscle that is being stretched. Passive stretching also known as assisted stretching is initiated by another person and the individual being stretched remains passive. This type of stretching has a greater risk for injury because the person that is assisting with the stretch cannot feel the sensation of the person being stretched.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation more commonly known as PNF. PNF is a type of stretching that promotes the neuromuscular response through stimulation of the proprioceptors in the body. There are three main types of PNF Stretching: Hold-relax, Contract-relax, and Contract-relax, antagonist- contraction. The hold-relax technique is the most common form of PNF stretching. Hold-relax is when the muscle is lengthened in a stretch position and is isometrically contracted against a non-moving resistance. Once the isometric force is placed, the muscle is relaxed and moved passively into the new range of motion that was gained from the stretch.

Myofascial Release can be performed with foam rollers. The main concept behind foam rolling is to apply pressure on the connective tissue around the muscle that can become tight or distorted. Once a tight or tender area is felt during foam rolling it is important to hold that pressure for 20 seconds allowing the connective tissues around the muscles to relax.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following guidelines for stretching: precede stretching with a warm up, perform a static stretching routine to muscle groups with a reduced range of motion, stretch to the end of the range of motion without inducing discomfort, stretch 5-7 days a week, hold each stretch for 15-60 seconds, and perform the stretch four or more repetitions per muscle group.

Gina Dubret – New Orleans Personal Trainer