Stretching is an important part of recovery, but it rarely receives the time or attention it deserves. The purpose of stretching is to maintain the flexibility of tissues that are tight or stiff from an activity or prolonged position.
There are a variety of methods of stretching (using the hamstring muscle as an example):
- Static/Isolated Stretching: Static, or isolated stretching is holding a stretch position for a long period. (Example: A static hamstring stretch would be when you sit on the ground with one leg pointing outward and you simply reach for your toes and hold for at least 30 seconds.)
- Dynamic stretching: Dynamic stretching is using movement to combine muscle groups. (Example: A dynamic stretch for the hamstring would be walking toe touches, as you bend down and grab your toe with every step for 2 to 3 seconds.)
- Foam Rolling: Foam rolling is a type of self-mobilization and massage. (Example: To foam-roll the hamstring muscle, you will simply put a foam roller under your legs and let your weight rest on top so the foam roller will push out any knots in your hamstring.)
A very general rule for stretching is dynamic stretching before exercise, static stretching after exercise, and foam rolling throughout. Utilizing various stretching strategies will allow you to maintain and improve your mobility.