What is static stretching?
Static stretching is used to stretch muscles in the body while the body is stationary. This method stretches the muscle to a point beyond its normal limit and then holds it there for about thirty seconds. Some advocate for the use of static stretching before more strenuous exercise to warm and loosen the muscles. However, other research has indicated that static stretching should be employed after vigorous exercise to help lengthen the muscles and increase flexibility, or range of motion around a joint. This research also states that other methods of stretching such as dynamic stretching should be used prior to activity. This is because dynamic stretching helps to increase heat and blood flow to the muscles.
To perform a static stretch, individuals move their bodies into a position that will enable a muscle or group of muscles to be stretched using tension, or tightness. The muscle or muscles that will be stretched are called the agonists, while the opposing muscles are called the antagonists. After positioning the body in a specific way to increase the tension on the agonist, the individual holds this position without moving for a few seconds. During this time, individuals should take slow, deep breaths. They should remain still and not bounce when performing static stretches. They should concentrate on holding the position rather than on the stretch itself. The stretch can be repeated several times. A common example of a static stretch is bending over to touch one's toes.
Static stretching has several advantages in addition to lengthening muscles and increasing flexibility. It can help relax the body both physically and mentally. Stress increases tension in muscles, and stretching helps reduce this tension. In addition, the deep breaths one takes during stretching can help relieve stress. Tight muscles can affect joints and lead to muscular imbalances. This can put individuals at risk for injuries. Static stretching loosens muscles to improve balance and decrease the risk of injury.
Two types of static stretching exist: passive and active. A person performing passive static stretching does not have to exert any effort. For example, if people are performing leg lift stretches passively, they would lift one of their legs into the air and either place their leg on something such as a chair or have another person hold it in place for the duration of the stretch. Doing this still stretches the leg and hip muscles, but it does not require other muscles to work to hold the leg up in the air.
Passive static stretching is used to work the muscles of people who cannot move on their own, such as those who are disabled, paralyzed, or in a coma. It is also employed by those who are not very strong as a way to strengthen the muscles and keep them moving. Some researchers claim that passive static stretching is more effective for readying muscles for exercise than other forms of stretching.
On the other hand, a person who performs active static stretching has to put forth work. For example, for the same leg lift stretch using active stretching, individuals raise their legs but do not use anything to prop their legs up; they instead use other muscles in the body to hold their legs up without any assistance. Active stretches are typically more difficult to perform than passive stretches, so they are usually only held for a few seconds.
More people perform active stretches because nothing but the body is needed to perform these types of stretches. Examples of active static stretches include lifting the arms in the air and holding them there, or performing a lunge and staying in that position. Static stretches are similar to some yoga moves, but many of them are much easier to perform. Active static stretching can be performed by people of all activity levels, and it is a good type of activity for individuals new to exercise and for those who are mostly sedentary (not active).
Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that uses movement to stretch muscles. This differs from static stretching because static stretching holds muscles still during the stretch. Athletes such as baseball players and runners typically use dynamic stretches to prepare their muscles for sudden movements, prevent strain, and increase flexibility. Dynamic stretches raise the body temperature to warm up the muscles and prepare them for swift movements.
These types of stretches are generally employed prior to workouts or competitions. The stretches can be tailored to correspond with specific sports played. This helps the body become used to particular movements to prevent injury. An example of a dynamic stretch used by a sprinter is raising alternate knees as high as possible while walking in place. This readies muscles in the legs and back for sprinting. An example typically used by baseball players includes swinging the arms next to the body around in circles. This stretches muscles in the arms, shoulders, and lower back to prepare baseball players to throw the ball and swing the bat during games.
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