Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Effects of Static and Dynamic Stretches

Stretching is an essential component of fitness that is oftentimes overlooked. It's an intricate physiological process which results in greater range of motion for your muscles. Stretching to improve your flexibility is important because it will not only make your workouts more efficient, but reduce your risk of injury drastically.
Static Stretching
Static stretching is the most common form of stretching utilized today and consists of holding a stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds. The American Council on Exercise Group Fitness Instructor Manual states that stretching a muscle for 20 seconds activates a sensory organ called the Golgi tendon organ, or GTO. When the GTO is stimulated, it relaxes the muscle and reduces the tension allowing you to obtain a deeper stretch.
Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching consists of a short duration stretch done a certain number of times. Quickly stretching a muscle creates a muscle reflex which contracts the muscle, immediately bringing it back to neutral position. This type of stretching quickly brings your muscle through full range of motion improving tissue extensibility and is suggested for use as a warm up. An example would be holding a medicine ball at stomach level and rotating to the left and right, dynamically stretching your trunk.
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation
This stretch can be done by yourself, but gives the best results when done with a partner and is the reason it is often used in physical therapy. This stretch involves statically stretching a muscle right after it has been contracted against resistance. An example is the supine single leg hamstring stretch which begins with you lying on your back and one leg straight up. Your partner will push your leg toward your chest while you contract your hamstrings to push back, after pushing for a few seconds, relax your hamstrings and let your partner push your leg into a deep static stretch.
Self-Myofascial Release
This last form of stretching requires the use of a tool such as a foam roller and is ideal for getting rid of knots and aligning muscles into neutral position. According to the "NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training," applying pressure with the foam roller along a muscle flattens out bundled muscle fibers, the knots, and resets them into the functionally correct position. Applying force slowly and gently also stimulates the GTOs allowing for an even deeper stretch.