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ACTIVE STRETCHING (AKA AROM of varying intensities, durations and frequencies)

Active Stretching is accomplished when the person who is stretching uses his or her own muschles to move through the range of motion without using any external force. The person may perform active stretching statically, dynamically or ballistically.


This most simple and commonly used type of stretching, static stretching involves a person placing a muscle or group of muscles in a lenthened position and then maintaining that position for a variable time from a few seconds up to several minutes. By holding the position for a sustained period without movement, the stretch reflex can be bypassed. Example: you lie on your back and perform a straight leg raise, holding it at the position of stretch.


Often confused with ballistic stetching, dynamic stretching involves progressive amplitudes and arcs of movement in a swinging or pendulum manner. It is more activity or sport specific and can be done as part of a warm-up. Example: competitive swimmers that perform large swinging movements of their arms immediately before jumping off the race block or baseball players before coming up to bat will swing the bat around in different directions before coming to the plate.


Ballistic Stretching involves bouncing, rebounding, bobbing and kicking movements that are usually rhythmic in nature. Although considered controversial, ballistic stretching is a necessary part of sport specific training when incorporated in a total flexibility program rather than being used as a solitary technique to gain general flexibility. Example: dancers, gymnasts and martial artists will repetitively kick, bounce and flip their bodies in multiple ways and directions only after first raising their body core temperature by means of a good warm-up.


Passive stretching occurs when the person being stretched does not contribute to the range of motion. This form of stretching usually involves an outside force such as a partner, towel or other apparatus, which applies the force. Example: you lie on your back and your partner performs a straight leg raise on you until a stretch is felt, at which time the partner hold the position for you.


Only slightly different from passive active, the stretch is initially accomplished by an outside force, then the person being stretched attempts to hold the stretch by isometrically contracting the agonist muscle. This is done in order to strengthen the weak agonist that is being reflexively inhibited by the tight antagonist muscle. Example: you lie on your back as your partner performs a straight leg raise on you. When you feel the stretch, the partner lets go while you activate the quadriceps to hold the position. Use the principal of reciprocal inhibition after passive-active ROM is introduced.


Active assisted stretching is initiated by the person being stretched, performing an active contraction of the agonist muscle group until that movement is restricted by the tight antagonist group. At this point, the person relaxes the agonist and then the partner assists further movement into the same direction to increse the flexibility of the antagonist. Example: After you perform the straight leg raise until restricted by the tight hamstring muscles, you relax while your partner tkes your leg further up into the range. Use resiprocal inhibition by starting with AROM, then PROM by outside force.


As described by author Dorothy Voss, PT, techniques of PNF "may be defined as methods of promoting or hastening the response of the neuromuscular mechanism through stimulation of the proprioceptors." Originated and developed by Herman Kabat, MD, PhD and Margaret Knott, PT in the 1940's to treat patients with paralysis. Later modified in the 1970's by physical therapists and athletic trainers to increase and maintain flexibility and range of motion in healthy people.

PNF Stretch Techniques (may also be known as Modified PNF, NF and Scientific Stretching for sport a.k.a. 3-s technique)


    This technique begins with the target muscle group in a mildly lengthened position, and then the muscles perform a moderate isometric contraction for 6 to 15 seconds against practitioner resistance. The muscle is allowed a few seconds of relaxation, and then the practitioner slowly deepens the stretch with passive movement. This procedure can be replaced several times as comfort and tissue response allows. Example: in a straight leg raise, the practitioner lifts the leg until the first restriction to motion is felt. The client contracts the hamstrings toward the opposite direction, and then relaxes. The practitioner then raises the leg until the next barrier to motion is felt. This technique is based on the inverse myotatic reflex.


    This method is very similar to the contract relax technique except that after the relaxation phase the agonist (muscle opposing the one being stretched) is actively contracted by the client until the client feels the movement stopped by the feeling of stretch in the antagonist. At this point, the client relaxes in the new stretch position and starts the sequence several times all over again as comfort and tissue response allows.


Developed by Aaron L. Mattes, MS, RKT, LMT, this technique is based on the same principle, as PNF Contract-Relax except the relaxation phase is held no longer than 2 seconds, in order to not elicit the stretch reflex. It is done in a rapid & more dynamic manner. Ropes are used in this method and can be done either solo or assisted. This is often used pre-event or activity.


Fred L. Mitchell, Sr., D.O. is acknowledged as the father of a system used to lengthen and strengthen muscles, reduce edema and to mobilize an articulation with restricted mobility. In order to treat hyper tonicity and shortening of a muscle, a technique similar to PNF Contract-Relax is used. Example: After passively lifting the client's leg in a straight raise, the practitioner asks the client to push with the hamstrings in the antagonistic direction for 3-7 seconds. After complete relaxation, the practitioner raises the leg further until the next barrier to movement is reached. These steps are repeated 3-5 times until full ROM is restored or improved flexibility is noted.


First introduced by Lawrence Jones, D.O., he founded that moving the joints or attachments of muscles in spasm closer together actually created an immediate release of the spasm. To do this required putting the antagonist on strain for 90 seconds, thereby "counter- straining" the spasmodic muscle. Upon muscle relaxation, the joint is slowly returned to its neutral position. The thought here is that the "release by positioning" turns off the agonistic muscle spindles via an antagonistic strain loop reflex.


This is a highly effective method that uses a ball, foam roller, or other tool to help reduce or eliminate soft tissue restrictions, trigger points, adhesions and tight spots that inhibit both strength and flexibility. This technique is especially beneficial before stretching to warm-up the tissue and release specific areas.


It applies an appropriate combination of stretching techniques to improve muscle imbalances, postural distortions and altered neural tissue dynamics. It utilizes static stretching, self-myofascial release techniques, neuromuscular and neuro dynamic stretching.

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