Flexibility is a key aspect of being a healthy, and well rounded athletic individual. Without flexibility, not only will your body feel very stiff, you’ll be unable to attempt key aspects of your sport, and you will be highly susceptible to more serious injuries. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), flexibility is defined as "the range of motion of a given joint or group of joints or the level of tissue extensibility that a muscle group possesses." What this means is, flexibility is determined by how large a muscle’s (or group of muscles) range of motion is.There are a plethora of different ways to stretch, and the three main ways to stretch that we will be focusing on in this article are static, dynamic, and active. All of these types of stretching will help you gain flexibility, but they all work differently, and, beyond just being able to bend further, have slightly different effects overall.
Static stretching is a type of stretching, where you hold poses for 10-30 seconds, and is generally a very deep stretch. Up until recently sport professionals thought that static stretching was the best form of stretching. Static stretching is the most common type of stretching, and is generally what people think of when they think of stretching. Static stretching is generally accepted as good for improving overall flexibility, but has been shown to be less effective when done before strength training, or hard exercise rather than after. It is essential to warm up prior to static stretching in order to prevent injury.
Dynamic Stretching involves movement and muscular effort for a stretch to occur. While static stretching takes a muscle to its full length and holds it there for 15 to 60 seconds, a dynamic stretch takes soft tissues to their full length and rather than holding it, after a brief pause of 3 to five seconds, the muscle being stretched contracts and the muscles and tendons exert a force in that lengthened position. By doing this we lengthen the muscle, strengthen it in its new range, and also work on balance and coordination. This type of stretching has been known to increase power and endurance, as well as improve coordination and balance.
Active stretching involves holding the stretched position with the opposing muscle group. This means actively contracting one muscle group so the other can get a deeper stretch. Active stretching stimulates and prepares muscles for use during exercise. Active stretches not only stretch the muscles and tissues, but prepare the muscles for strenuous usage by activating and warming them up. This in conjunction with dynamic and static stretching will not only improve your parkour training but also your day to day functions in life. Stretching is an essential habit that should be built into any athletes training regime. The sooner one adopts a consistent stretching habit the quicker the athlete will feel more capable in their movement and be less at risk for injuries. However, adopting healthy habits as an athlete is easier said than done, but that is a topic for another article all together.
Not every type of stretching is ideal for every person, so figuring out what works best for you and what will help you reach your goals is important. Overall, stretching is important because it keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight, which makes certain movements hard and sometimes even impossible to achieve.