The basics of stretching-Isometric stretches
So, you’re heading out for a run or walk, and like many others who think they are helping to prevent an injury from happening, you decide to get a few stretches in before starting out. The first thing you probably do is grab a foot, pull it up to your buttocks, and stand there for a few seconds in the stork position. Right? In the past, this was considered a good stretch, but times have changed.
One of the most used isometric stretches is for the calf muscles, the ones at the bottom back of your lower leg. Isometric, as the name implies means without movement. The muscles are contracting but neither lengthening nor shortening in the process, thus there isn’t any externally visible motion.
Here’s how to do a commonplace isometric stretch for your calves. Start by standing next to a wall or other support surface, put your hands on the wall to maintain your balance, and back away about three feet or four feet from it. At this point, it is important to keep both feet, including the heels, entirely on the ground. Now, with a straight body, slowly lean forward toward the wall. You will feel the stretch in your calves. Hold for ten to twenty seconds and then relax. Other methods have been identified; one of which is active isolated stretching.
Aaron L. Mattes developed a form of stretching which he named active isolated stretching. It works by first contracting the antagonist or opposing muscle groups of the ones being stretched. Contracting the antagonist muscles first automatically relaxes the muscles to be stretched.
For instance, when stretching your hamstrings, you would first tighten up your quads, the large muscles on the front of your upper leg. Next, move quickly but smoothly into the hamstring stretch mentioned earlier.
In this method of stretching, you hold the stretch for only one to two seconds before releasing and getting ready for the next stretch to begin. In actuality, the total time under tension is about the same as for a normal stretch, ten to twenty seconds, because you repeat the sequence up to ten times.
Another stretch, known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), is available. This is the most productive of them all and even more effective than the ones previously listed. The PNF method incorporates both stretching and contracting of the targeted muscle group. Originally used in the rehabilitation setting it has become a mainstay of many progressive stretching programs.
This method can increase your range of movement, i.e. flexibility, and at the same time increase the strength of the muscles being stretched.
The reason for its effectiveness lies in the fact that not only does it increase ROM but also improves strength at the same time. This stretch requires someone with knowledge of how to do it correctly. Doing it incorrectly will cause an injury.
To begin with, the joint and muscles that are being stretched are first placed into a position of tension, once there, the person being stretched contracts the muscle for five to six seconds at a medium level of intensity. During this time, the partner holds the body part to prevent any movement. After the five to six seconds is up, the muscle contraction is relaxed and the partner gently applies about thirty seconds of pressure to the area going past the normal ROM, thereby increasing the ROM.
Rest thirty seconds between the contraction and applied pressure and then repeat the entire cycle three to four more times.
I want to emphasize the fact that this can be a dangerous stretch if the parties involved do not know what they are doing. The person being stretched out is in a vulnerable position and it only takes a moment of carelessness to cause an injury that could have been prevented.
Muscles should not be stretched before they are warmed up and they should not be stretched if there is a preexisting joint problem that has not been addressed by a medical professional.