Warm-up stretching should be part of everyone’s exercise routine. After doing a brief cardiovascular warm-up, like jogging in place or jumping rope, it’s important to take a few minutes to stretch out your muscles prior to beginning your workout. Warm-up stretches will help prepare your muscles for activity. Warm-up stretches will also increase your flexibility, which can help prevent exercise-induced injuries.
Active stretching is a type of stretch where you enter into a stretching position and then hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds. It’s the strength of your muscles that is holding the pose of the stretch. Many of the stretches you’d perform during a yoga class are active stretches. Active stretches increase your flexibility and strengthen your muscles. Your joints are also stretched during active stretching, helping to increase your range of motion. Using active stretches as part of your warm-up routine can help prepare your muscles and joints for exercise by working targeted muscle groups prior to intense activity.
Passive or relaxed stretching is where you enter into a stretching position and support the position with another part of your body or with the assistance of a stretching partner or prop. Bringing your right arm behind your head and holding it at the elbow with you left hand for 10 seconds would be a passive stretch. Passive stretching is helpful in relieving muscle spasms and helps to elongate and loosen the muscles. Passive stretching is great to do when warming up for exercise with others, because you can partner with a teammate or exercise buddy to stretch prior to working out.
Ballistic stretching uses momentum to force the body into a stretching position. The momentum can come from repeated bouncing, bobbing or swinging. With ballistic stretching, the muscles never have time to truly experience the stretch before being jolted out of the stretched position. Overhead arm circles are an example of ballistic stretching. Ballistic stretching can help increase your range of motion and may be useful to stretch out targeted muscle areas associated with the type of exercise you’ll be doing.