4 types of stretching exercises

The types of stretching exercises vary as to how the muscles are stretched. The functionality of certain types of stretching exercise differs from one to the other.


1. Static stretching.

Static stretching is performed while the body is at rest. It is done by pulling, pushing, flexing or lengthening the muscles up to a point of pain or discomfort; and holding such position or length to a at least 30 seconds. Static stretching aims to lengthen our bodies' reach and widen our range of mobility. 

There are other types of stretching exercise associated with static stretching. These are passive stretching, active stretching and isometric stretching.

-Passive stretching may also refer to as a static-passive stretch or relaxed stretch. This is static stretching with the help of an apparatus or a partner. The muscles being stretched for this purpose should be relaxed as they are lengthened or flexed by a partner or an apparatus. For example, allowing your partner to stretch your legs towards you while on a lying position.

-Active stretching, also referred to a static-active stretch), is likewise a static stretch however it does not need an external force to stretch the muscles. The person needs 2 muscle groups (agonist and the antagonist) to performing an active stretch position. The agonist is the contracting muscle; while the antagonist is the opposing or the muscle being flexed.Raising your legs upward towards you on a lying position is one form of the static-active stretch. Holding this position for 10-20 seconds is difficult. Assisting your hamstring during the raise helps; but don’t pull up or help your legs maintain the stretch. This stretch builds up strength, flexibility as well as increases our body's range of motion. Active Isolated (AI) stretching is very similar to the active stretch as one of the types of stretching exercises.

-Isometric stretching is one of the types of stretching exercises that is static. While at rest, it involves contracting or resisting against the force or direction of a stretched muscle group. This type of stretching develops flexibility and strength. An example of isometric stretching is forcing your raised leg against a wall or a partner who is holding up your legs.


2. Dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching involves movement while the muscles are being flexed. This exercise usually involves a gradual increase in speed and motion. It's one of the types of stretching exercises that is usually performed as warm up exercise for running and other sporting routines. An example of dynamic stretch is a lunge, arm swings and side bending.

3. Ballistic stretching.

This is similar to a dynamic stretch as it also involves movement. However, unlike dynamic stretching, ballistic stretch requires a sudden bounce, throttle or motion to flex a muscle group to a further range. This stretching exercise is prone to injuries if your muscles are not warm enough to perform that needed stretch. An example of a ballistic stretch is when you continue to bounce to build momentum to finally reach your toes.


4. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching (PNF).

PNF is a stretching exercise that involves flexing and contracting the muscles. This exercise is a combination of the static-passive and isometric types of stretching exercises. This is usually done with a partner. The common kind of PNF stretch is the hold-and-relax where while the muscles are stretched; the partner would further flex such muscles to increase its range of motion. This exercise or technique was first employed by physical therapist to treat patients with a history of stroke.

What types of stretching exercises should I do?

...and when should I do them?

The types of stretching exercises help in preventing muscle pains and injuries during workout. However, the effects of the types of stretching exercises differ as to the timing when they are performed when working out.


Dynamic stretching is more appropriate as a warm up exercise for sports and any physical activity. Static stretching on the other hand, should be done after exercising when you’re about to cool down. Avoid static stretches for your warm up to prevent sprains, especially if your connecting tissues and muscles are not yet heated up or warm enough for a strenuous stretch.