This is an excerpt from String of Pearls, edited by Ray Hayward ©2003 Shu-kuang Press entitled “Stretching for Life: An Introduction to Stretching Methods” by Paul Abdella
Relaxed stretching is the most common and widely practiced form of stretching. It is characterized by slowly relaxing your body into a stretch and holding it there for a time. Imagine a ballerina with her leg held up to the barre, gracefully lowering her rounded torso to it.
As the name implies, you assume positions that let you relax your muscles as you move into the stretch. You feel the tension in the muscles created by the stretch reflex. As you stretch, you move past the point of tension a little, hold, then move out of the stretch. As you repeat this sequence, eventually the stretch reflex is adjusted and the level of tension in the muscle lessens and you can ease into a new position.
Dynamic stretching (sometimes called ballistic stretching) can be defined as a stretch or movement that is started by a muscular contraction but is completed by momentum. This momentum often takes the muscles outside a normal range of motion Dynamic stretching most closely resembles the activities in which we all engage. Imagine a football kicker warming up to punt a ball with a few half-speed kicks in the air; a golfer gliding through a swing with an imaginary club; a baseball player loosening arm and shoulder with a relaxed throwing motion.
Isometric stretching is a form of stretching where a muscle is first stretched and then contracted against some form of resistance for a short period of time (about five seconds) before being released. This stretch, contract, release cycle is repeated from three to five times, increasing the stretch a little with each sequence until your maximum range of motion is achieved. The resistance is created by stretching and contracting against an immovable object and using a weight to apply force to the stretching muscles.