Active Vs Passive Stretching – Benefits And Difference In Flexibility Exercises

When you think stretching you might picture that old guy that breaks his morning run and puts his leg up on a handle rail for a quick stretch.

Maybe you think of sports like gymnastics or yoga. but no matter what it is, chances are it’s a sport you think of.

You see stretching and physical exercise goes hand in hand. But why do we need to stretch?

Stretching keeps your muscles healthy, strong and flexible.

We need flexibility in our muscles so our joints can move through their full range of motion.

Ask any physical therapist for their recommendations with health and fitness, stretching will be one of the first things they will tell you to do.

But there is more than one type of stretching.

Passive stretching is a relaxed stretch, where you get into the stretch position and hold yourself in position with another body part.

Active stretching is very similar, only instead of holding yourself in position, you are using the strength of the agonist muscles to keep you in the stretch.

There are also, ballistic, dynamic, and isometric stretching.

Honestly, both are fine, and they both have their place.

But, when I train my clients I try to always do dynamic stretching as part of the warm-up.

Rather than trying to put a cold muscle through a long stretch, I use movement to stretch the muscles and warm my client up at the same time.

Loosening everything through movements and getting some blood flow to the muscles before a workout is a good idea.

At the end of a session is when we could typically do some static stretches, usually a combination of both active and passive stretches to decrease the risk of injury.

But there are also a few other ways you can stretch, for example, you could try proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretches, or PNF stretches.

To perform these you are basically alternating between stretching and then contracting the stretched muscle.

You hold a stretch then ease it off and contract the muscle for 5-6 seconds.

You then push the stretch a little further than last time, repeat this process 3 or 4 times aiming to stretch the muscle further each time.

You can also do ballistic stretching, which is very common in ballet.

Ballistic stretches bounce you further and faster through the full range of movement stretching out the muscles that way.

Stretching is something you can do anywhere. Just like exercise, especially when you know how, so get yourself a FREE copy of my ebook.

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Is Active Or Passive Stretching Better?

Neither is better nor worse.

They both have a place in your routine.

But dynamic stretches are an excellent choice before a workout.

They are going to get the blood flowing through the muscles while also helping to loosen up muscle fibers before you put them through a workout.

But for me going through a mix of passive and active stretches at the end of a workout is a great idea.

Maybe try starting with some passive stretches first, like putting your leg up on a bench to stretch your hamstrings, or holding your foot behind your back to stretch out your quads and hip flexors.

Then sit down on the floor and open your legs out wide and straight in front and try to reach forward.

This is an active stretch as your core and your quads are engaged to pull you forward to stretch out glutes and hamstrings.

But is definitely a good idea to have a stretching routine you go through with a mix of different stretching techniques.

But to begin with, keep it simple and stick to the main types of stretches and target specific muscle groups you tend to have trouble with.

Because we tend to sit a lot our hip flexors are a big problem for people.

We also hunch a lot now, we spend more time at our desks or on our phones.

So focusing your stretching routine on your hips and shoulders is a good starting point.

And use a mix of passive and active stretches because neither is better, incorporate some dynamic stretches as well.

What Is An Example Of Passive Stretching?

One of the first things I do every day is stretch.

I usually always start by trying to loosen up my lower back a little so I work on all the muscles that tend to get tight and pull at the lower back.

So I start with the hamstring muscles.

This is quite simple to do, just a simple toe touch, only I try and reach around and hold my legs as low as I can until I start to feel the muscle length increase.

Sure you can do this with just your body weight pulling you into a forward fold. but once you’re in the stretched position why not grab your ankles and get a little more pull.

For me, morning is the best time to get a stretch in, and it’s always important to stretch after working out as well because we don’t want to risk injured muscles or what was the point in working out in the first place.

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What Are Examples Of Active Stretching?

Yoga poses are a great thing to picture when you’re trying to figure out what active stretching is.

You’re getting yourself set in one position and slowly letting a tight muscle stretch out, but you are typically using opposing muscles groups to hold you in these positions.

Yoga practice is a great way of stretching, the kind of stretching you’re body really needs after a long day.

Active stretches are a great want to help with mobility.

Did you know that the biggest reason people can’t perform a single leg squat or pistol squat is that they don’t have the range of motion in their ankle to get down into that position on one leg.

It’s the ankle joint, when you can’t get your ankle through its full range of motion it’s going to be very difficult to get yourself in the position needed to squat down on one leg.

If your current range of motion in your ankle is stopping you, like so many others from doing a pistol squat.

It’s time to start loosening up your calves. A simple calf stretch is another example of a passive stretch we should all do more often.

By using a wall to prop your toes up and straighten out your leg you get a great stretch in your calf.

Check out the video below for my top tips on how to get your first pistol squat!

Is Static Stretching Active Or Passive?

A lot of people use static and passive stretching to mean the same thing.

When in fact they are slightly different.

A static stretch is when you stretch a muscle to its furthest point and then hold it in that position for an extended period of time.

When passive stretching is done when the muscle is relaxed position and you use an aid to help pull you into the stretch, whether that be using another limb, a resistance band or even having a buddy push the resistance for you.

But things get more confusing when people start using terms like static-passive stretching or static-active stretching.

And honestly, it’s not really worth worrying about.

The main takeaway is that stretching is important and you should be doing more of it throughout the day.

The exact names and terms aren’t as important as the habit itself.

So I feel like it’s safe to assume that you are interested in finding out more about health and fitness in general. 

But there’s another important ingredient that most people over look when trying the achieve their dream body.

If you don’t build the healthy habits you need to make sure the new diet and fitness routine stick you’ll be back at square one in no time.

So book your FREE evaluation call with me now, and see how I can help you take back control!