Muscle tightness and restricted mobility is a common issue for a number of people training in the gym. Often people will turn to stretching to help fix these issues but what most aren’t aware of is that there are different types of stretching and different causes of restricted mobility.
Below we will cover the 2 main types of stretching we like to incorporate for our clients at HFP and why we would use them.
This is the type of stretching most people are familiar with. It involves placing a muscle into a stretched position and holding it for a duration of time.
How static stretching works is by stimulating a part on the end of the muscle called the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO). The GTO’s job is to sense tension placed on a muscle and if the tension is sustained it causes the muscle to relax. This effect will kick in after 45 seconds of sustained tension so at HFP we advise holding static stretches for 90-120 seconds.
Due to static stretching’s ability to inhibit and relax a muscle it can have potential negative effects on strength output so we advise only using static stretching after strength training or only if necessary before.
PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. This type of stretching involves placing a muscle in a lengthened position and then contracting the muscle for 5+ seconds. After each contraction the aim is to further lengthen the muscle until maximal length is achieved.
PNF stretching works differently to static stretching as it doesn’t involve a relaxation or inhibition of the muscle.
In some instances a muscle may not be able to stretch as the body is keeping it constantly contracted as there may be too much instability for it to move. By placing the muscle on a stretch and contracting it, you are sending a signal to the brain that there is stability in the stretched position and that it is ok to allow the muscle to stretch.
Since there is no inhibition of the muscle we advise to try PNF stretching first before using static stretching. If PNF stretching works then there’s no need to static stretch until after training. If PNF doesn’t work, it may be wise to try static stretching.