Functional range of motion is an important part of any fitness routine. Proper flexibility improves performance and helps to prevent injuries to muscles, tendons and joints.
Stretches may be broadly classified as active or passive. Properly applied, both types are effective.
See below for more information on the principles and differences.
-Stretching should never hurt
-Make sure that your body is stable and supported
-Be aware of joint movements and ranges of motion needed for your sport
-Move slowly in and out of the fully stretched positions
-Avoid ballistic (bouncing) movements
For example, to stretch the hamstrings (back of the thigh), the quadriceps and hip flexors (front of thigh and body) are contracted.
The fully stretched position should be held for no more than 2 seconds. The movement is repeated to build up time in the stretched position, leading to increased flexibility.
Active stretching principles can be applied to any area of the body.
-Follow all general principles of stretching
-Contract and shorten muscles on the opposite side of the joint to create lengthening in the target muscle group
-Hold the fully contracted position for no more than 2 seconds
-Relax, return, repeat
In my experience, this type of stretching takes 1-2 weeks to obtain lasting changes in range of motion and feelings of flexibility. It is often effective helping clients achieve a new level of flexibility.