There are three methods of stretching — static, ballistic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Static is recommended for the majority of athletes since it is the least likely to cause injury. Ballistic (bouncing) and PNF stretching are best reserved for those under the tutelage of a coach. Dynamic warm-ups, which are comprised of a variety of movements including sprints and jumps, are fabulous exercises to facilitate in preparation for hard workouts and games. Increased blood flow to muscles aid in flexibility gains from stretching, and is an important component for injury prevention.
Things to bear in mind in following a flexibility program are:
• Warm up thoroughly before performing exercises.
• Stretch just to the point before discomfort sets in.
• The feeling of tightness should diminish as you hold the stretch.
• Breathe out into the stretch avoid holding your breath.
• Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds.
• Complete two to three stretches before moving on to the next exercise.
Competitive sports can have quite an unbalancing effect on the body. Take racquet sports for example: The same arm is used to hit thousands of shots over and over again. One side of the body is placed under different types and levels of stress compared to the other. In most sports, athletes tend to develop a dominate body side, reaffirming the need for proper stretching. A flexibility training program can help correct disparities and prevent chronic, over-use injuries.
What is your activity or sport of choice? Are you explosive, repetitive or a combination of the two? Flexibility is one of your keys for long-term success.
Dana Neer is a local coach and fitness enthusiast who contributes a monthly column. He may be reached by email at Dana.Neer@Culver.org.