What Is Static Stretching? And What Are The Alternatives?
Stretching is one of the fundamental components of correct training and exercise. It can be used in a variety of different ways, from Static Stretching and Dynamic Stretching to Myofascial Release and Yoga. Stretching can help improve our mobility and flexibility as well as helping when it comes to correct form, end ranges and injury prevention.
Static (passive) Stretching is the most well known and common form, but what exactly is it? And how does it work? Well Static Stretching involves only using opposing forces on the body and/or gravity to stretch out. Static Stretching should only be used in a cool down to help blood flow to muscle fibers, and if used in a warm up, it can actually hinder muscle strength and power. There are alternatives we can use as a part of the warm up, which I will go through later on. But static stretching is a great way of cooling down and prevent DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) after a training session. So we don’t want to use static stretching in our warm up, what can we use instead?
Well, we can look at Dynamic (active) Stretching. Dynamic Stretching is where we can move our muscles whilst stretching, either by mobilising our joints as well, or the opposing muscles of whatever we want to warm up. For example, a Static Stretch Chest Opener might involve us putting our arm straight back behind us and leaning against a wall to stretch, but a dynamic version of this would be to stretch that arm straight out behind us and tuck it in as close to the body as we can whilst keeping it straight, creating tension in the shoulder.
Another form of stretching we can use is called PNF for short, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation uses passive and active stretching and can be performed with resistance bands or a training partner or coach. PNF can lead to increases in flexibility and can stretch opposing musculature at the same time. PNF is a way of training the body to go beyond it’s current limitations, so make sure you’re careful and always consult a professional if you’re unsure. This is more advanced in terms of stretching, which is something to be aware of.
We can also look at Myofascial Release as a way of warming up and cooling down after a session. Myofascial Release most commonly uses a foam roller or a tennis ball to release the Fascial tissue. Fascia is like cling film that surrounds your muscles. When that cling film scrunches up it needs to be ironed out, enter the foam roller. Myofascial Release is a great way to prep your muscles as well as releasing the fascial tissue for greater flexibility, plus it feels like a weirdly painful massage. A little pain is normal for Myofascial Release, but anything above a 7 on your pain scale is a definite no-no. Also make sure to avoid foam rolling over any joints or nerve centres to prevent any discomfort or injury.
Yoga is a great way of warming up for calisthenics as it incorporates, and helps to strengthen, many of the same end ranges for our joints and muscles. Also a short routine helps keeps us mobile and flexible. Yoga can also provide a calming mental presence, like stretching for your mind. Also yoga helps with advanced rotational movements and compression strength. There are plenty of routines out there to get started with, from a beginner level to something more advanced. Testing ourselves through yogic practice will also help us control our breathing, which in turn adds emotional benefits too.
With Calisthenics, most skills involve flexibility and mobility, and whilst stretching will help get you there, make sure to add a mobility and/or flexibility session/s into your training programme. This is also prevalent if splits or back bends are something you want to progress with.
YouTube has some fantastic videos for you to follow along with, with a variety of different trainers and athletes so you can find a stretching methodology that works for you and your goals. With enough care and attention to your stretching, you’ll be limbo-ing and doing the splits in no time.
Let’s get flexible!
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