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Stretching the Truth: Part II
The next most common and the most effective form of stretching is active joint range of motion. This method should be utilized before any form of physical activity. Active joint range of motion, is the process of taking the target joint, actively through a specific range of motion, in a stationary body position, with slow muscle contraction. It is not designed to lengthen a muscle, but rather move the specific joint through its normal ranges of motion. As an example, one might perform 10 to 15 repetitions of active straight leg raise, before preparing for any motion that performs hip flexion. The process is basically preparing the muscles to move the joints before embarking on more forceful contractions with exercise. The goal with active range of motion is not to increase range of motion, but rather to prime the joints for the range of motion it already has. This form of stretching has shown to be the most effective in preventing injuries related with training, and should be included as part of an overall program. The final most common form a stretching is dynamic range of motion. Dynamic range of motion is where you take the joints and tissues through their active range of motion, and add increased challenge by adding changes in body position, and utilizing more forceful contractions with increased speed of muscle contraction. If active range of motion is similar to walking, dynamic range of motion would be closer to a run. Prior to exercise, you need to prime the range of motion that you have, then create more forceful contractions closer to the speed that you will be doing with your training. Dynamic range of motion is usually performed for multiple contractions over distance. A good example would be doing high knees forcefully down the length of the turf in the gym. There is minimal inherent risk with dynamic range of motion, however it is best to perform the more forceful contractions after you have primed the joints for activity with active ranges of motion with slower and more deliberate movements.
As you can see there are many forms of stretching that are used in fitness. I chose the most 4 most common, but there are many more that are commonly utilized that I did not mention. Having an understanding of the most common methods used in stretching will help you to determine if it is appropriate for use as part of your fitness program. In part three of this series, we will discuss the scientific rationale for what if anything stretching may be good for.