Flexibility training involves performing a series of exercises that help maximize range of motion and muscle stability. The benefits are improved blood flow in the muscles and lower risk of injury.
There are three basic types of stretching exercises that help accomplish these goals: static, dynamic and Isometric/PNF.
Static stretches are the most traditional type, encompassing the more or less standard 'pull to maximum end point, hold for five or ten seconds, then release' group of exercises.
Static stretches should form part of every 10 minute warm-up routine. Every major muscle group should be given a gentle pull, hold and relax. This helps improve the circulation and readies the muscles for more vigorous activity, while decreasing the risk of tears or tendon stretching.
Dynamic or ballistic stretches are more controversial, since they involve stretch with added momentum or even using weights. They are potentially harmful and that risk-factor is one of the major elements behind the controversy. At minimum, you should seek out a knowledgeable trainer before engaging in this form of flexibility training.
As one example, rest one knee on a ball and slowly rotate the ball away from the body, giving a very moderate bounce at the maximum point. Lunges, performed by moving one foot ahead, kneeling slightly with the back straight and bouncing gently, would be another.
PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) involves a combination of passive and isometric exercise. Apart from having a fancy technical name and associated acronym, PNF actually has several useful features that should motivate individuals to investigate its value.
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