Static stretching is deemed as one of the conventional forms of stretching, belonging to the stretching types most people are more familiar with. Static stretching is usually performed in a passive pattern (labeled static-passive stretching – more info on passive stretching here) – though an active form of static stretching is also widespread! It has been widely regarded as a very effective way of increasing one’s flexibility, expanding their range of motion and preventing from injuries; and although serious arguments have recently arisen by many instructors and fitness experts – mainly regarding the weakening of the target muscle and the actual increment of the injury likelihood –, this particular type of stretching remains pretty popular among the members of the fitness and health community.
How Static Stretching Works
Being the opposite of dynamic stretching, static stretching involves reaching a position where a stretch is felt and then holding it without attempting to deepen it more – but just trying to stay (hence the term static) in that pose for the needed time. When a static stretch is performed slowly and carefully, a sensory organ known as “Golgi Tendon Organ” (its acronym, “GTO”) is triggered; this results in the stretched muscles being relaxed, enabling the stretch to be widened, since the stretch reflex, which causes the muscle to contract, is not triggered thanks to the gradual increase of tension in the muscle.
Static VS Passive Stretching
Incidentally, that lack of movement is a trait of static stretching which generates to many individuals the tendency to confuse this type of stretching with the passive one, since, in most cases, static stretching is executed with the implementation of an external force. Yet, there is no actual reason for that misunderstanding! As we mentioned before Static stretching can be performed either passively (namely, through the help of an external force) or actively (that is, through engaging your muscles’ forces) in order to reach the stretch, which subsequently is held without additional motion.
Static Stretching Exercises
Generally, static stretching requires you to move a limb and gently force it beyond its usual range of motion, when you just start feeling a slight discomfort, and to hold it there for at least 20-30 seconds (usually, with the help of an external factor, such as your arms’ fingers or a chair) so as to “lengthen” the muscles involved and ultimately achieve a wider, and permanent, extent of motion.
Let’s have a look on a couple of stretches typically executed in static form – before you try any of them please have a careful look at our Stretching Guide:
- Hamstring stretch, in any of its variations – In Photo 1 the trainee demonstrates the seated one with both legs extended. So, assume a position on the floor with your legs straigthened and joined in front of you and gently lean forward trying to touch your toes with your fingers; if you cannot meet your toes, make sure you lean as far as you can; stay there without moving or bouncing for 20-30 seconds, and there you have performed a static hamstring stretch!
- The quadriceps stretch in all its forms (seated, standing, etc) is also a classic example of statically performed stretch, since you bend your leg backwards and hold it there immobile for the needed seconds; in case you encounter difficulty in grabbing your foot, you can use a stretch band or a wrapped towel to help you out; also, you can carry out this static stretch actively, by just pushing your leg backwards and holding it there for about 20 seconds! Photo 2 demonstrates a seated version of static-passive quadricep stretch.
- Another one, the knee-to-chest stretch, mainly targeted at relieving back pain; from a supine position, raise both or each your legs alternatively (photo 3), while bending your knees, moving them towards your chest, and once you ‘ve reached a relatively comfortable position, hold your knees there with your elbows; stay there stagnant for the needed seconds.
In general, and due to its nature, static stretching can be applied to practically every part of your body (mainly, legs, hips, chest, back, arms and/or shoulders). Thus, for the upper body, you can statically perform exercises like head bend, shoulder and chest stretch, biceps and triceps stretch or pulling arms across your chest. For the lower part of the body, hips and thighs stretch, adductors stretch, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings stretches are very useful, while back stretches and side bends can increase the flexibility of your middle section!
Note here that detailed guidelines for executing those exercises should be given by a skilled trainer, since practicing the stretches is always much harder than they appear in theory; therefore, it is advised, at least in the early stages, to undertake your stretching routine under constant guidance and supervision. However, the above described examples and the images posted on this article should be enough to allow for a basic perception of static stretches.
Here are some of the most prominent advantages of static stretching, aside from the standard stretching benefits:
- It’s ideal for increasing flexibility and range of motion! The efficiency of static stretching in terms of ROM boost depends on several factors such as duration of static stretching exercises (relative study can be found here)!
- It aids greately in ameliorating exercise performance, if performed consistently.
- It’s a perfect choice for post work-out recovery: This stretching type causes the muscles to relax and eradicates post exercise fatigue by means of lactic acid removal! Lactic acid brings about an irritation feeling while also preventing post work-out healing, so static stretching makes it easier for the muscles to heal!
- A sizable number of fitness specialists do have their objections to static stretching. For instance, and apart from potential injuries which can happen if stretches are performed before training, it has been demonstrated that this type of stretching cuts down the flow of blood to your muscles, thus compromising the regularity of the brain’s communication and coordination with your muscles, while it may result in actually decreasing your muscles strength and diminishing your “explosive” movements! This is why trainers of sports like soccer are solidly against static stretching for their athletes, exactly because they reckon that this particular kind of stretching could be negative for their overall performance. On the contrary, the soccer coaches prefer dynamic stretching!
- Precisely because static stretches force the target muscles to relax, they can practically make them weaker in the short term, causing strength imbalance between opposing muscle groups and thus increasing the likelihood of a muscle strain or tear.
What to Consider
- Perform static stretches after working out, when your muscles, joints and ligaments are adequately “lubricated” to sustain the flex; if you peform them before your work-out, you simply have nothing to gain by that while you unnecessarily boost your risk of getting injured! In fact, static stretching can very well become a part of a cool-down program at the end of your training, in order to deliver optimal benefits and ensure maximum safety.
- Breath normally for as long as you are holding your limb, to avoid bouncing or doing burdensome moves, to complete at least a couple of stretches for each part of your body before moving to the next one and to always stretch to the point of mild inconvenience!
- The sense of tightness is supposed to fade as you keep your position – and as your stretching routine unfolds –, so if you still feel stiffness or pain after a while, it is better to abort immediately and ask for advice.
Photos & Videos
Watch the photos and video below for further understanding of the meaning of static stretching:
All in all, and despite the objections, static stretching can really help you increase your flexibility (besides, it is the easiest way for amateur athletes or even for people who are just introducing themselves in stretching), provided you perform your exercises with a good amount of safety, prudence and determination as well! Don’t forget to take into consideration our general stretching guide!
Category: Types of Stretching