Updated: Feb 22
We have all heard that stretching is important for the human body. Stretching comes with many benefits such as athletic performance, general health and wellness, and it releases pain and tension. The more important question is what kind of stretching should we be doing and when should we be doing it. I believe that most of us are not even aware of how good the body is designed to feel - reaching, rotating, bending, leaning, hinging and combinations of these movements are all essential for functional everyday movement. With most of us working/sitting long hours in the day, common discomfort can be found in the neck, back and legs and with a little extra stretching, we can feel like a whole new person!
Although BASI (Body Arts and Science International) Pilates is typically known to move through exercise with a prominent stretch element - I have found that incorporating just a little more static and dynamic stretching into my classes has significantly improved my client’s alignment, posture, and it inevitably leaves them feeling more mobile and pain-free.
There are three main types of stretching: static (held stretching), dynamic (moving through the stretch), and ballistic (forced a movement beyond its range of motion).
Static stretching is a form of active or passive stretching in which you hold a position for about 30-60 seconds, allowing the muscles and their connective tissues, fascia, to lengthen. Static stretching may not be the best way to improve performance before physical activity as it may inhibit the muscle’s ability to fire properly with a reduction in muscle tension and an increase in length between resting the muscle fibers. If we overstretch our muscles, this inhibits elasticity, which inhibits our performance. However, it is beneficial to do this form of stretching during exercise or at the end of a workout.
Dynamic stretching is a form of active stretching that is performed by engaging the desired muscle’s antagonist through the joint’s range of motion, only holding the stretch for 2-3 seconds. The stretch is only held briefly so that the muscle is able to increase in length without a reduction in muscle tension. By preventing the reduction in muscle tension, an individual is able to improve their range of motion without a loss in force production. This type of stretching is also referred to as a dynamic warm-up, and it is the preferred type of stretching to do before exercising to prepare the muscles for rigorous demands.
Ballistic stretching is the most controversial form of stretching. This is because it makes use of muscle activation through quick, jerky movements which inhibits the body’s stretch reflex and increases the muscle’s range of motion through the force created by the bouncing. The extra external force produced can overload the muscle, increasing the risk for potential injury. Here there is a high risk of injury, thus in BASI Pilates, we do not recommend using this style of stretching.
When looking at the three different styles of stretching there is an increased range of motion but knowing when to do what and how to move through the movement safely and with a good alignment is critical and beneficial for longevity. BASI Pilates allows for mindful, typically low-impact stretching through movement, while still making use of static and dynamic stretching appropriately for the individual to improve posture and mobility.