Static stretching refers to how far a muscle can be passively stretched around a joint, e.g. furthest distance you can move when trying to touch your toes.
This type of stretching routine serves to lengthen the resting muscle lengths and so restore ideal posture to the body. This greatly reduces the chance of injury and contributes greatly in rehabilitation and sports performance.
A passive stretching routine should be performed 3/ 4 times a week or more if very stiff at the moment. There are three main types of static stretching techniques aimed at increasing the muscle length. These work by either mechanically lengthening the muscle or by getting the central nervous system to allow increases in muscle length.
What to stretch.
Which muscle to stretch is a difficult question. In general stretching all muscles can be beneficial but the focus must be to find the tight ones and relax them. This is because it is the tight muscles that will cause injury. Tightness is relative issue rather than absolute, for example, being able to touch your toes cannot be said to be a good or bad sign of flexibility unless it is compared to the flexibility of the opposing muscle groups. Differences from side to side of the body are also significant factors in injury, for example, having the left hamstring tighter than the right.
To find out which muscles are tight complete some stretch tests. Then focus on the muscles that are tight on your body. Frequently retest for changes in flexibility and focus for your stretching campaign.
When to stretch
Static stretching should be done after an exercise session or later in the day. E.g. before bed time. Do not do static stretching if you have not done your active stretching routine at some point during that day as your body is not loosened enough to make any progress.
Points to note
Do not try and push the stretches, e.g. I seen people try to break their back in an attempt to touch their toes. Just be patient and use the techniques described.
Do not be too concerned with time to hold each stretch, gauge it by how the muscle releases tension. Remember also something is better than nothing
The three types of stretching routine are called basic hold, hold relax, hold contract.
Hold - relax
Continue holding until the muscles relax (20 - 60 seconds)
Now take a deep breath in and out and move the stretch onto the next point of tightness.
Repeat as necessary
Hold - contract
Now contract the muscle being stretched as hard as possible for 5 - 10 seconds.
Relax, wait 3 seconds and take to the next comfortable point of tightness.
Repeat by contracting the muscle once again for 5 -10 seconds.
Do up to 5 contractions then change stretch before repeating as necessary
Static stretching exercises
Once you have discovered what muscles are tight and in need of stretching. The easiest way to do this is using some simple stretch test. Alternatively stretch the whole body and see which muscles feel really tight.
Then choose any stretch that targets your tight muscles. There are hundreds of different stretches but as long as your tight muscle is being stretched without hurting anywhere else on the body then do not worry about the merits of two similar exercises.
Do not force any stretch, just let the body take you to a comfortable point of tightness.
Use the hold relax or hold contract on muscles deemed particularly tight.
Be particularly vigilant about over stretching the muscles during a hold contract.
Do not allow a partner to push/stretch your muscles, they do not know how tight your muscles are or how hard to push!
Static stretching is one component of fitness along with active flexibility in the four areas of exercise.. These are covered along with nutrition and the mental elements of healthy living in my weekly newsletter
I possess a degree in chemistry and I am qualified to teach metabolic typing nutrition. I attained the Certified strength and conditioning certificate through the NSCA and their certified personal trainer certificate. To complement this I completed further study in personal training, athletic preparation, lifestyle coaching and Emotional freedom technique (EFT).
I am Author of the top selling book Rugby fitness training: A twelve month conditioning programme and run the websites One2one nutrition and Rugby fitness training.com