There are basically two types of stretching: dynamic and static. Both are important and effective, if done properly. But, they affect the muscle differently, so it is important to know when to use each of them. For more information on stretching see Stretching: when and why.
Dynamic stretching involves utilizing momentum to propel the muscle into an extended range of motion not exceeding one’s static-passive stretching ability. An example of this is leg swings/kicks to stretch the hamstrings. This form of stretching is best for physical exertion and sports performance since it prepares the muscles and joints in a more specific manner—the body is going through motions it will likely repeat in the workout. It also helps the nervous system and motor ability since dynamic motions do more to develop those areas than static stretches.
Static stretching is used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. An example of this is hanging from a bar to stretch the shoulders. I prefer utilizing gravity to provide the stretching force, and maintaining the stretch for a minimum of 1-3 minutes. It is essential that the muscle being stretched is relaxed. When done properly, static stretching lessens the sensitivity of tension receptors, which allows the muscle to relax and to be stretched to greater length. This is especially beneficial after exercising, when the muscle shortens due to fatigue. Static stretching is not recommended just prior to competition/vigorous exercise as studies have shown that this type of stretching temporarily weakens the muscle and impedes explosive ability. Static stretching is one of the best methods to increase muscle flexibility and should be part of your daily exercise routine.
To be absolutely sure your stretching routines are done correctly, consider joining our Santa Cruz supervised fitness training program.