As this is a recovery guide, we’ll go from the more passive types of stretches and gradually build our way up to the more dynamic and explosive kinds.
1. Passive stretching: this one requires a partner, which may be ideal for those recovering from surgery or unable to stretch themselves effectively. If you don’t have someone to assist you then there are materials you can use to help you.
2. Active Stretching: done on your own, you assume a position and hold it there without assistance from any external factors. Only using the strength from your agonist muscles (the muscles you are relaxing). Doing this increases the range of motion and strength of the muscles your are focusing on. Just be sure to hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds to get proper results.
3. Static Stretching: this one is similar to passive stretching but with this you look to stretch to the farthest point you can reach and hold. That extra bit helps create a muscle memory that elongates the muscle and helps increase your range of motion and reach.
4. Isometric stretching: this is an evolution of static stretching, that incorporates adding resistance to muscles groups by using isometric contractions (tensing) of the muscles being stretched. This is one of the fastest ways to increase flexibility and more effective than passive or active stretching alone. Not only does it help improve the flexibility of those muscles, but their strength as well.
5. Ballistic stretching: this type of stretching utilizes the momentum of your body’s movement or a limb in order to force it beyond its current ROM limit (range of motion). By bouncing into a stretched position, using the stretched muscles as a spring you effectively can “warm up” using this method. However, this method isn’t entirely useful and can lead to injury, which is what we are trying to avoid.
6. Dynamic stretching: Not to be confused with ballistic stretching this form consists of controlled swinging motions of your limbs, gently taking them to their respective limits one by one. Each movement is slow, methodical and controlled. Any “jerking” motion can risk injury.
7. PNF stretching: standing for "proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation", this is more of a technique that combines the aforementioned passive and isometric methods of stretching. This is done to achieve maximum flexibility, initially for rehabilitating stroke victims. PNF refers to any post-isometrically relaxation stretching actions done when a muscle group is passively stretched. Then contracts isometrically against the resisting muscle while you are stretching. A partner is usually required but if none are available then you can use this alternative
There are 3 sub sections for this stretch, the hold-relax, hold-relax-contract and hold-relax-swing.
Hold-relax: or contract relax, after taking up the starting passive stretch, contract the muscle isometrically (on its own) for 7-15 seconds. Afterwards, relax for only 2-3 seconds and move into a passive stretch that goes even further than the first attempt. This final passive stretch is meant to be done for 10-15 seconds. Before doing another PNF, relax for 20 seconds to help recover.
Hold-relax-contract: or contract-relax-contract. This involves 2 isometric movements of tension (contractions) first with the agonist then on to the antagonist. (Eg your thigh then your hamstring). Similar to the hold-relax, here you perform the first stretch, contracting isometrically for 7-15 seconds. Then immediately contracting the antagonistic muscle for the same period of time, while relaxing the agonist. Once completed, they are relaxed for 20 seconds before doing another PNF.
Hold-relax-swing: unlike the previous versions, this one includes using dynamic or ballistic stretches combined with static and isometric ones. I must admit it is very risky, so for this guide I’ll just advise you to ignore it.