Using good stretching techniques
can improve flexibility. There are four commonly recognized categories
of stretching techniques: static, passive, proprioceptive neuromuscular
facilitation (PNF), and ballistic. These are described here and
shown later in this chapter.
The four categories of stretching techniques are static, passive, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and ballistic.
Static stretching involves the gradual lengthening of muscles and tendons as a body part
moves around a joint. It is a safe and effective method for improving
flexibility. The trainer assumes each stretching position slowly
until he feels tension or tightness. This lengthens the muscles
without causing a reflex contraction in the stretched muscles.
He should hold each stretch for ten seconds or longer. This lets
the lengthened muscles adjust to the stretch without causing injury.
The longer a stretch is held, the easier it is for the muscle to adapt to that length. Static
stretching should not be painful. The trainer should feel slight
discomfort, but no pain. When pain results from stretching, it
is a signal that he is stretching a muscle or tendon too much
and may be causing damage.
Passive stretching involves the trainer's use of a partner or equipment, such as a towel,
pole, or rubber tubing, to help him stretch. This produces a safe
stretch through a range of motion he could not achieve without
help. He should talk with his partner to ensure that each muscle
is stretched safely through the entire range of motion.
PNF stretching uses the neuromuscular
patterns of each muscle group to help improve flexibility. The
trainer performs a series of intense contractions and relaxations
using a partner or equipment to help him stretch. The PNF technique
allows for greater muscle relaxation following each contraction
and increases the trainer's ability to stretch through a greater
range of motion.
Ballistic, or dynamic, stretching involves movements such as bouncing or bobbing to attain a greater
range of motion and stretch. Although this method may improve
flexibility, it often forces a muscle to stretch too far and may
result in an injury. Individuals should not use ballistic