Static stretches are performed only after completing the warmup and dynamic stretches. I also advise to apply a technique to your static stretches, see below for more details.
Complete a full specific routine. Or you can pick 5-10 static stretches from the upper and lower body static stretch collection.
Static Stretch Collections From Around the Web
A Simple Technique to Apply to Static Stretches
Alongside static stretches are techniques to help increase the effectiveness of a stretch. You may have heard of isometrics, PNF, passive, and/or resistance training, these are all helpful techniques to learn and apply.
To keep it simple here is what I do in a static stretch. Breath integrated with muscle contraction and relaxation.
- Once proper form is achieved begin; Inhale and contract all of your muscles.
- Exhale, relax muscles, and gently sink into the stretch.
- Inhale, slightly come back out of the stretch, straighten or elongate necessary muscles and contract.
- Exhale, relax muscles and gently sink into the stretch.
- Repeat until you reach 10.
The main focus is to breath deep; the next major focus is form. No matter how flexible or inflexible you are it is important to work on form, which normally consists of elongating every limb, squaring hips, or slightly turning, twisting arms, and legs; all depending on the stretch.
When you achieve good form, squeezing or contracting all the muscles will build muscle memory, so when you are up in the air without gravity’s assistance you will remember what good form feels like and which muscles need to be activated.
If you study the shapes you’re imitating and then watch the shapes you are making, you will start to see the adjustments you need to make, this is also the invaluable part of having a coach or instructor.
Pick Lower or Upper Body.
Pick (1) Dynamic Stretch Routine, and (1) Static Stretch & Pose Routine.
- Dynamic Stretch Routines – Strength & Flexible Movement
- Static Stretches & Poses
…More Poses & Stretches
Time: 1 hour
Pick (1) Static Stretch & Pose Routine.
- Dynamic Stretches – Strength & Flexible Movement
- a. Backbends
- Static Stretches & Poses
…More Poses & Stretches
Time: 1 hour
Upper & Lower Body
Pick (2) Dynamic Stretch Routines, and (2) Static Stretch & Pose Routines.
- Side Splits & Backbends
- Side Splits & Middle Splits
- Dynamic Stretches – Strength & Flexible Movement
- Static Stretches & Poses
…More Poses & Stretches
Applying A Technique | In-depth
Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.
Isometric stretching is a type of static stretching (meaning it does not use motion) which involves the resistance of muscle groups through isometric contractions (tensing) of the stretched muscles (see section Types of Muscle Contractions). The use of isometric stretching is one of the fastest ways to develop increased static-passive flexibility and is much more effective than either passive stretching or active stretching alone. Isometric stretches also help to develop strength in the “tensed” muscles (which helps to develop static-active flexibility), and seems to decrease the amount of pain usually associated with stretching.
The most common ways to provide the needed resistance for an isometric stretch are to apply resistance manually to one’s own limbs, to have a partner apply the resistance, or to use an apparatus such as a wall (or the floor) to provide resistance.
An example of manual resistance would be holding onto the ball of your foot to keep it from flexing while you are using the muscles of your calf to try and straighten your instep so that the toes are pointed.
An example of using a partner to provide resistance would be having a partner hold your leg up high (and keep it there) while you attempt to force your leg back down to the ground.
An example of using the wall to provide resistance would be the well known “push-the-wall” calf-stretch where you are actively attempting to move the wall (even though you know you can’t).
Isometric stretching is not recommended for children and adolescents whose bones are still growing. These people are usually already flexible enough that the strong stretches produced by the isometric contraction have a much higher risk of damaging tendons and connective tissue. Kurz strongly recommends preceding any isometric stretch of a muscle with dynamic strength training for the muscle to be stretched. A full session of isometric stretching makes a lot of demands on the muscles being stretched and should not be performed more than once per day for a given group of muscles (ideally, no more than once every 36 hours).
The proper way to perform an isometric stretch is as follows:
- Assume the position of a passive stretch for the desired muscle.
- Next, tense the stretched muscle for 7-15 seconds (resisting against some force that will not move, like the floor or a partner).
- Finally, relax the muscle for at least 20 seconds.
Some people seem to recommend holding the isometric contraction for longer than 15 seconds, but according to SynerStretch (the videotape), research has shown that this is not necessary. So you might as well make your stretching routine less time consuming.
How Isometric Stretching Works
Recall from our previous discussion (see section How Muscles Contract) that there is no such thing as a partially contracted muscle fiber: when a muscle is contracted, some of the fibers contract and some remain at rest (more fibers are recruited as the load on the muscle increases). Similarly, when a muscle is stretched, some of the fibers are elongated and some remain at rest (see section What Happens When You Stretch). During an isometric contraction, some of the resting fibers are being pulled upon from both ends by the muscles that are contracting. The result is that some of those resting fibers stretch!
Normally, the handful of fibers that stretch during an isometric contraction are not very significant. The true effectiveness of the isometric contraction occurs when a muscle that is already in a stretched position is subjected to an isometric contraction. In this case, some of the muscle fibers are already stretched before the contraction, and, if held long enough, the initial passive stretch overcomes the stretch reflex (see section The Stretch Reflex) and triggers the lengthening reaction (see section The Lengthening Reaction), inhibiting the stretched fibers from contracting. At this point, according to SynerStretch:
When you isometrically contracted, some of the resting fibers would contract, many of the resting fibers would stretch, and many of the already stretched fibers, which are being prevented from contracting by the inverse myotatic reflex [the lengthening reaction], would stretch even more. When the isometric contraction was relaxed and the contracting fibers returned to their resting length, the stretched fibers would retain their ability to stretch beyond their normal limit. … the whole muscle would be able to stretch beyond its initial maximum, and you would have increased flexibility …
The reason that the stretched fibers develop and retain the ability to stretch beyond their normal limit during an isometric stretch has to do with the muscle spindles (see section Proprioceptors): The signal which tells the muscle to contract voluntarily, also tells the muscle spindle’s (intrafusal) muscle fibers to shorten, increasing sensitivity of the stretch reflex. This mechanism normally maintains the sensitivity of the muscle spindle as the muscle shortens during contraction. This allows the muscle spindles to habituate (become accustomed) to an even further-lengthened position.
PNF stretching is currently the fastest and most effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is not really a type of stretching but is a technique of combining passive stretching (see section Passive Stretching) and isometric stretching (see section Isometric Stretching) in order to achieve maximum static flexibility. Actually, the term PNF stretching is itself a misnomer. PNF was initially developed as a method of rehabilitating stroke victims. PNF refers to any of several post-isometric relaxation stretching techniques in which a muscle group is passively stretched, then contracts isometrically against resistance while in the stretched position, and then is passively stretched again through the resulting increased range of motion. PNF stretching usually employs the use of a partner to provide resistance against the isometric contraction and then later to passively take the joint through its increased range of motion. It may be performed, however, without a partner, although it is usually more effective with a partner’s assistance.
Most PNF stretching techniques employ isometric agonist contraction/relaxation where the stretched muscles are contracted isometrically and then relaxed. Some PNF techniques also employ isometric antagonist contraction where the antagonists of the stretched muscles are contracted. In all cases, it is important to note that the stretched muscle should be rested (and relaxed) for at least 20 seconds before performing another PNF technique. The most common PNF stretching techniques are:
- the hold-relax
- This technique is also called the contract-relax. After assuming an initial passive stretch, the muscle being stretched is isometrically contracted for 7-15 seconds, after which the muscle is briefly relaxed for 2-3 seconds, and then immediately subjected to a passive stretch which stretches the muscle even further than the initial passive stretch. This final passive stretch is held for 10-15 seconds. The muscle is then relaxed for 20 seconds before performing another PNF technique.
- the hold-relax-contract
- This technique is also called the contract-relax-contract, and the contract-relax-antagonist-contract (or CRAC). It involves performing two isometric contractions: first of the agonists, then, of the antagonists. The first part is similar to the hold-relax where, after assuming an initial passive stretch, the stretched muscle is isometrically contracted for 7-15 seconds. Then the muscle is relaxed while its antagonist immediately performs an isometric contraction that is held for 7-15 seconds. The muscles are then relaxed for 20 seconds before performing another PNF technique.
- the hold-relax-swing
- This technique (and a similar technique called the hold-relax-bounce) actually involves the use of dynamic or ballistic stretches in conjunction with static and isometric stretches. It is very risky, and is successfully used only by the most advanced of athletes and dancers that have managed to achieve a high level of control over their muscle stretch reflex (see section The Stretch Reflex). It is similar to the hold-relax technique except that a dynamic or ballistic stretch is employed in place of the final passive stretch.
Notice that in the hold-relax-contract, there is no final passive stretch. It is replaced by the antagonist-contraction which, via reciprocal inhibition (see section Reciprocal Inhibition), serves to relax and further stretch the muscle that was subjected to the initial passive stretch. Because there is no final passive stretch, this PNF technique is considered one of the safest PNF techniques to perform (it is less likely to result in torn muscle tissue). Some people like to make the technique even more intense by adding the final passive stretch after the second isometric contraction. Although this can result in greater flexibility gains, it also increases the likelihood of injury.
Even more risky are dynamic and ballistic PNF stretching techniques like the hold-relax-swing, and the hold-relax-bounce. If you are not a professional athlete or dancer, you probably have no business attempting either of these techniques (the likelihood of injury is just too great). Even professionals should not attempt these techniques without the guidance of a professional coach or training advisor. These two techniques have the greatest potential for rapid flexibility gains, but only when performed by people who have a sufficiently high level of control of the stretch reflex in the muscles that are being stretched.
Like isometric stretching (see section Isometric Stretching), PNF stretching is also not recommended for children and people whose bones are still growing (for the same reasons. Also like isometric stretching, PNF stretching helps strengthen the muscles that are contracted and therefore is good for increasing active flexibility as well as passive flexibility. Furthermore, as with isometric stretching, PNF stretching is very strenuous and should be performed for a given muscle group no more than once per day (ideally, no more than once per 36 hour period).
The initial recommended procedure for PNF stretching is to perform the desired PNF technique 3-5 times for a given muscle group (resting 20 seconds between each repetition). However, HFLTA cites a 1987 study whose results suggest that performing 3-5 repetitions of a PNF technique for a given muscle group is not necessarily any more effective than performing the technique only once. As a result, in order to decrease the amount of time taken up by your stretching routine (without decreasing its effectiveness), HFLTA recommends performing only one PNF technique per muscle group stretched in a given stretching session.
Remember that during an isometric stretch, when the muscle performing the isometric contraction is relaxed, it retains its ability to stretch beyond its initial maximum length (see section How Isometric Stretching Works). Well, PNF tries to take immediate advantage of this increased range of motion by immediately subjecting the contracted muscle to a passive stretch.
The isometric contraction of the stretched muscle accomplishes several things:
- As explained previously (see section How Isometric Stretching Works), it helps to train the stretch receptors of the muscle spindle to immediately accommodate a greater muscle length.
- The intense muscle contraction, and the fact that it is maintained for a period of time, serves to fatigue many of the fast-twitch fibers of the contracting muscles (see section Fast and Slow Muscle Fibers). This makes it harder for the fatigued muscle fibers to contract in resistance to a subsequent stretch (see section The Stretch Reflex).
- The tension generated by the contraction activates the golgi tendon organ (see section Proprioceptors), which inhibits contraction of the muscle via the lengthening reaction (see section The Lengthening Reaction). Voluntary contraction during a stretch increases tension on the muscle, activating the golgi tendon organs more than the stretch alone. So, when the voluntary contraction is stopped, the muscle is even more inhibited from contracting against a subsequent stretch.
PNF stretching techniques take advantage of the sudden “vulnerability” of the muscle and its increased range of motion by using the period of time immediately following the isometric contraction to train the stretch receptors to get used to this new, increased, range of muscle length. This is what the final passive (or in some cases, dynamic) stretch accomplishes.
Nothing beats professional instruction, if you are lucky enough to have access to a flexibility or contortion coach it is always best to add one to your routine.
They will also have you doing flexibility routines at home, which can coincide with your flexibility schedule. When you go to your class you can print out a flexibility goal worksheet to show your coach, so they have a better idea of what your goals are.
If you have never done any of these stretches before, it is advised that you go to a professional studio where an instructor or coach can spot you and make sure you are doing the stretches properly. They can also help you take photos of your progress.
If there are no studios or instructors in your area, a private online lesson is the next best thing.
If you have done these poses before but want to increase your flexibility I still recommend clicking through to the tutorials. It is always good to refresh your memory with tips and tricks from different perspectives.
You’ll want to set yourself realistic goals, the more obtainable goals you achieve, the better you’ll feel about moving forward.
I like to celebrate even the centimeters of success, because it encourages me to obtain more centimeters, and they add up trust me. 🙂
If you are here.
Don’t expect to be here in 100 days.
There is no guaranteed timeframe in which you’ll achieve your flexibility goals. Performance depends on how many days and hours you commit to stretching. It also depends on how much effort you put into the routine and how comfortable you were during the routine.
When you are uncomfortable it is hard to focus on breathing, form and muscle control, and performance suffers. But don’t worry the next time, when you are comfortable and you put in maximum effort, you’ll be more flexi than ever!
Flexibility is also a a journey of bonding with your body. It is essential to be mindful of your muscles and breathing. Try to be as silent in the mind as possible while you are performing your moves. To silent the mind just focus on breath and muscle contraction and relaxation.
You could also try to visualize yourself doing the move.
When you consistently perform your routine with proper form and techniques, continue doing it and each time you be one step closer to reaching your goals.
There is no shortcut, or fast way to gain more flexibility, it takes time and hard work. The stronger you become in your new range of motion, the less painful stretching will be.