Martial artists, yoga practitioners, dancers and many other athletic types can do amazing things with their bodies. Some of them can touch their nose with a foot or bend into an almost pretzel like shape. But how do they do it? They take a little time every day to do some stretching, stretching, and yes, more stretching. Limbering up muscles, joints and tendons takes training and conditioning as well as time.
There are several different kinds of stretching. Martial artists implement several of them so that kicks can reach the head of an opponent and the back can bend out of the way of an attack. For anyone wanting that kind of flexibility, then give all but the ballistic stretching a try and, over time, you will see results.
The first is called dynamic stretching, which involves swinging the arms or legs and using the momentum to stretch everything to its full range of motion.
Passive stretching is when a friend leans on, say, a leg until they’ve brought it into as deep a stretch as they can without causing pain. They use their body weight to hold the muscle in place for a few beats, then release.
When a person pushes their own body into a stretched position and holds it, like yoga practitioners do, then that person is practicing active stretching.
Ballistic stretching, one that few if any people recommend anymore, is when you bounce or jerk in an attempt to force the muscles into stretching deeper. A few instructors still use this method of limbering and stretching, but it is not something that should be done.
Then, that stretching a person does to relax after a great workout is called a static stretch. This one should always be done at the end of any type of exercise--including just deep stretching to improve flexibility. It helps loosen the muscles, relax the body, and keep lactic acid from settling into the muscles.
So, if flexibility isn’t something that comes naturally, try doing some stretching every day and see what happens. Most people are pleasantly surprised.