There are a number of different stretching techniques, each with specific ways of doing them and different effects. In fact, experts describe seven different stretching techniques:
- Passive (or relaxed)
However, for practical purposes we will talk about two stretching techniques - dynamic (meaning they involve motion) and passive (which is static - meaning it involves no motion).
Dynamic stretches: These involve moving parts of the your body to gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. The movements are always controlled, and gently take you to the limits of your range of motion.
Dynamic stretches don't use bounces or "jerky" movements, and might include slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists. They are often used as part of a warm-up prior to a sport or a martial-arts class.
Passive stretches: As the name suggests, this is a stretch where you assume a position then hold it. Resistance is provided by an object such as the floor, the wall, or sometimes a partner.
These types of stretches are performed in a slow, relaxed manner, and are good for relaxing muscles - they are frequently after a workout as part of a cool down, and can help to reduce post-workout muscle fatigue and soreness.
Due to the confusion over these different types of stretches, many people perform passive stretches as part of a warm up, which is counter productive, as they temporarily shorten a muscle and reduce the range of motion, the last thing you want before exercising.