Using good stretching techniques can improve flexibility. There are four commonly recognized categories of stretching techniques: static, passive, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and ballistic. These are described here and shown later in this chapter.
The four categories of stretching techniques are static, passive, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and ballistic.
Static stretching involves the gradual lengthening of muscles and tendons as a body part moves around a joint. It is a safe and effective method for improving flexibility. The trainer assumes each stretching position slowly until he feels tension or tightness. This lengthens the muscles without causing a reflex contraction in the stretched muscles. He should hold each stretch for ten seconds or longer. This lets the lengthened muscles adjust to the stretch without causing injury.
The longer a stretch is held, the easier it is for the muscle to adapt to that length. Static stretching should not be painful. The trainer should feel slight discomfort, but no pain. When pain results from stretching, it is a signal that he is stretching a muscle or tendon too much and may be causing damage.
Passive stretching involves the trainer's use of a partner or equipment, such as a towel, pole, or rubber tubing, to help him stretch. This produces a safe stretch through a range of motion he could not achieve without help. He should talk with his partner to ensure that each muscle is stretched safely through the entire range of motion.
PNF stretching uses the neuromuscular patterns of each muscle group to help improve flexibility. The trainer performs a series of intense contractions and relaxations using a partner or equipment to help him stretch. The PNF technique allows for greater muscle relaxation following each contraction and increases the trainer's ability to stretch through a greater range of motion.
Ballistic, or dynamic, stretching involves movements such as bouncing or bobbing to attain a greater range of motion and stretch. Although this method may improve flexibility, it often forces a muscle to stretch too far and may result in an injury. Individuals should not use ballistic stretching.
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