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Stretching to Increase Flexibility (Part 1 Static Stretching)

Let’s explore the most effective and safe ways to stretch: Static, Dynamic and Facilitated. This post is focused on Static Stretching.

When developing flexibility the goal is to increase the range of motion in the joints in not just a safe way, but in a way that is effective for the chosen sport. Aerial and pole, like dance and yoga, require higher levels of flexibility especially with progression into difficult moves. At the top levels of our pursuits, there is a demand for hyper flexibility like synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, and some forms of martial arts. The long-term effects of hyper-mobliity can be detrimental, especially if the athlete is pushing too hard, too fast or is stretching with incorrect form but that is another post.

Here are a few basics about flexibility.

1. Flexibility is genetic; if your parents were contortionists you will probably be flexible. If your parents cannot touch their toes, do not lose hope, you can develop flexibility, you will just have to work at it.

2. A stretch should produce the feeling of stretching, not searing pain. If you stretch on a scale of one to ten, you should never be hovering at a 10. Forcing your body into a stretch will produce less success then letting your body open into a stretch, this means you can try to deepen the stretch, but the more advanced athlete knows when to stop. Listening to your body and learning your limits are what will keep you going for years to come. This is also called patience.

Two types of Static Stretching

Active Static Stretching

This is the type of stretching involving contracting agonist muscles (the muscle group opposing the muscle we hope to stretch). Many of the poses in yoga are active static stretching. When doing a forward fold, the idea is to activate the quadriceps, biceps and Iliopsoas and release the hamstrings. The central nervous system tells the hamstrings to relax, when these agonist muscles are contracted, this is called “reciprocal inhibition”. The poses are usually only held 10 to 30 seconds.

Passive Static Stretching

This is relaxing into a stretch using only body weight, and holding the stretch for 30 to 90 seconds. An example would be holding yourself in a front splits and letting the quadriceps and hip flexors relax on the back leg and the hamstrings relax on the front leg.

If you would like to see what people can do with static-based stretching check out Emil Valentino’s facebook page. He offers online flexibility classes that do use many types of stretching, but often work through static stretching avenues.

I am the one in class with my dog and cats photo bombing every photo.

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