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Flexibility 101 – The different types of stretching

Flexibility is the foundation for all movement. It is within the range of motion we currently access that we can express other qualities such as strength, speed, endurance and so on.

Today’s post will be the first of more to come about what you need to know and do as a beginner in order to become more flexible. Probably when you hear the word Flexibility your mind goes to stretching. Even though you might have heard about multiple different methods of stretching they can all be reduced down to one of four of the following categories:

  1. Static Passive – Could be described as traditional stretching. Go in to the stretch and hold it there, passively, for time
  2. Static Active – A passive position with muscle contractions. This could mean that you are actively holding yourself up in a split or that you are tensing your muscles against a fixed resistance. Methods such as PNF falls under this category
  3. Dynamic Passive – When you passively move in and out of your range of motion. This is usually done by someone else, such as a therapist, but could also be done by yourself when you for example use your hand to move your ankle
  4. Dynamic Active – When you actively move in and out of your range of motion

The beauty of this is that you don’t have to choose one and stick with that forever. They don’t exclude one another but rather completes each other. The most optimal way is probably therefore to combine them all, BUT since what is even more optimal also depends on you, what method you prefer and what gets done I recommend you to try them all to see what works best.

Some important pointers to have in mind when you are on a quest to increase your flexibility are:

  1. View as training on its own and give it priority. Just as you train your strength by going to the gym or go for a run to increase your endurance you should have sessions focused on flexibility rather than just quickly and duteous pull some of your muscles for a few seconds in the end of your work outs. This does not mean that you have to spend hours every week solely on flexibility sessions, but at least give it priority in the beginning or after your other session, maybe by reducing the volume of your main activity. If your goal was to get stronger you probably wouldn’t just mindlessly go in an lift some weights for 2 minutes and then go home.
  2. Be patient – It will take time. This is not a question of weeks but rather months and maybe years. Do not fall for those ”Get your split in 30 days”-crap. Instead make sure to consistently do the work over a long period of time. Find a way to measure your progress, either in objective ways but remember that also subjective measurements such as feeling more comfortable in a given position counts as well.
  3. Rather start too light and easy and slowly increase volume and intensity over time, than the opposite. As mentioned above we want to give ourselves the chance to consistently do the work over a long period of time. By going out too hard you might shoot yourself in the foot if you get injured because of a volume or intensity you were not yet ready to handle.
  4. Have the right intention. Your muscles will adapt to the stimulus you expose them for. Make sure that you use your full range of motion with the intention to increase your flexibility in ”traditional” strength training movements and you probably won’t have to spend as much time on stretching

Before we finish this text I want to leave you with some questions to ask yourself.

  • Why do you want to become more flexible?
  • What are the flexibility requirements in your everyday life or the sport you are practicing?
  • Do you prioritize your flexibility practice?
  • What type of stretching method do you prefer – Static holds or Dynamic movements? Try a bit of both and see what resonates with you

Until next time – Spread your legs a little bit every day and life will be better

Viktor

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