The basic principles of stretching

The basics

There are three commonly used stretch techniques:

  • Static: Sustained pressure is applied to a muscle group in a legthened position:
  • Dynamic or Ballistic: Repeated bouncing movements are made at the end of range of muscle length, stimulating the stretch reflex:
  • PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation): Combines a series of isometric muscle contractions and static stretches performed accordingly to several specifc protocols.

Stretching is normally done to achieve one or more of five aims:

  1. To increase muscle length
  2. To reduce the risk of injury
  3. To enhance prospect of healing for injured tissues
  4. To enhance performance
  5. To reduce pain associated with muscle and joint stiffness

Static stretches with the aim of achieving short-term range of movement gains should be held for 15-30 seconds and for a maximum effect should be repeated four to five times.

Static stretching should not be included in warm-ups, as it seems to decrease performance of explosive actions and activities demanding muscle strength endurance.

PNF can achieve range of movement changes and is often more affective then static stretching, but is also more difficult for athletes to perform on their own.

Those completing exercise regimes should consider a regular stretching routine as part if an overall training programme, this can help prevent injuries and should be individualised and sport specific.

(Sean Fyfe,:Stretching: What’s the point?, Sports Injury Bulletin, October 2005)