What is a stretch? In very basic terms, a stretch is the lengthening of a muscle. We consider it a “relaxed” state. But in order to get one muscle into that relaxed and lengthened state, another muscle has to be shortening.
There are 2 types of stretching- passive and active. We consider passive BAD and dangerous. We encourage you to use active stretching. Studies from the American Journal of Applied Physiology and reports brought to us by the American College of Sports Medicine show that passive stretching can decrease strength. Passive stretching can tear your soft tissue thus creating less available muscle for you to create power.
So what’s the difference between active and passive stretching? Passive stretching is when an outside force other than your own muscle is pushing or pulling your body into a range of motion that you can’t do by yourself.
Other factors to consider: everyone has a different structure. And your structure will determine it’s function–not the other way around. No one can decide to become a contortionist. You either have large joint spaces and longer or loose ligaments so you can fold yourself or you do not.
Stretching naturally occurs when you exercise. In order to contract a muscle, the opposite muscle groups have to be relaxed and lengthening.
Here is one good example. The Bridge is an exercise that contracts (or works) the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. It stretches the quads, hip flexors and abs. Use your exercise wisely. Pick different exercises every few weeks that work though different ranges of motion so you gain active flexibility and you can stop pulling on your legs since that won’t do you any good!
Bridge: On your back, knees bent, feet slightly wider than hips, push your butt in the air using your glutes and hamstrings. Lower slowly but
hover over the ground-do not rest. Start with 20 reps/ 2 sets. Increase resistance by crossing one leg over the other and only lifting with one leg.