Stretching is a versatile practice, and there are various methods to achieve increased flexibility and improved range of motion. Two common approaches are active assisted stretching and passive assisted stretching, each offering unique benefits and involving different levels of engagement from the individual being stretched. Let us learn about the key differences between these two stretching techniques.
Active assisted stretching:
1. Active engagement: In active assisted stretching, the individual being stretched actively engages the muscles of the target area. This means they contract the muscles opposing the ones they are trying to stretch. For example, when stretching the hamstrings, the individual contracts the quadriceps, which are the muscles on the front of the thigh.
2. Reciprocal inhibition: The concept of reciprocal inhibition plays a crucial role in active assisted stretching. When you contract the opposing muscles, it sends a signal to the stretched muscle to relax. This relaxation allows for a deeper stretch and greater flexibility gains.
3. Greater muscle engagement: Active assisted stretching not only stretches the target muscle but also actively engages the opposing muscles. This can lead to improved muscle strength and coordination, making it an excellent choice for athletes and those looking to enhance muscle control.
4. Controlled and progressive: Active assisted stretching allows the individual to control the level of muscle engagement and the intensity of the stretch. It can be adjusted to match the individual’s comfort level and progressively increased as flexibility improves.
Passive assisted stretching:
1. Minimal muscle engagement: In passive assisted stretching, the individual being stretched plays a more passive role. They do not actively engage the muscles of the target area; instead, they rely on an external force, such as a partner or therapist, to guide them into the stretch.
2. External assistance: Passive assisted stretching relies on external assistance to achieve the stretch. The partner or therapist provides the necessary pressure or guidance to elongate the muscles and increase flexibility.
3. Relaxation and comfort: Passive assisted stretching is typically more relaxing and comfortable for the person being stretched since they are not actively contracting muscles. It can be an excellent choice for individuals seeking relaxation and relief from muscle tension.
4. Reduced muscle engagement: Unlike active assisted stretching, passive assisted stretching does not actively engage the opposing muscles. It primarily focuses on elongating the target muscle group without actively contracting the antagonistic muscles.