Ultrarunning: Different Types of Stretching Techniques

June 5, 2012

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “Different Types of Stretching Techniques”, please leave it below in the comments section…

To stretch or not to stretch is certainly a question most ultrarunners ask. Unfortunately, there isn’t one definitive answer to this question. And the debate has gotten even hotter, what with the latest research findings that claim stretching, particularly the static technique, as unnecessary, and purportedly a regimen which can even increase the possibility of injuries if done prior to a demanding exercise such as a long run.

But it’s long been hard-wired in us that stretching is indispensible. Plus stretching is considered integral in both physical and occupational therapies. Surely the routine has its merits, right? So many still do this before a run, while others have heeded the recent research results and scrapped altogether stretching from their pre-run preparation protocols.

But then again, it’s all a matter of personal preference. If stretching does wonders for you, whether it’s before or after the exercise, then perhaps there really isn’t a need to ditch the routine. Stretching, after all, aids in providing agility. And if you’re agile, you’ll have longer strides, something which you’ll want to achieve if you’re to set even more demanding personal ultrarunning records. And you’ll be glad to know that there are in fact a handful of stretching techniques out there.

PNF stretching – PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretching is the treatment protocol used in rehabilitating paralysis patients since the 1950s. But PNF stretching has entered the sports world and is now utilized as a supplement to daily stretching routines to provide better range of motion in athletes such as ultrarunners. The technique incorporates stretching the muscles while simultaneously contracting them so as to improve overall flexibility and strength.

Resistance stretching – This technique is very similar to PNF stretching as it requires stretching the muscle while at the same time contracting it. What’s innovative about the technique though is that it also advocates stretching opposing or balancing muscle groups most especially if the spots are just too difficult to stretch. A classic example would be the toe touch. Someone not too flexible attempting such a maneuver will feel his or her hamstrings become especially tight while trying to reach the toes. With resistance stretching, the opposing or balancing muscles, which in this case would be the quadriceps, will be worked on as well to enable a better toe touch.

Active stretching – This technique is mostly in use in the popular discipline Yoga and entails holding specific stretched positions from 10 to 15 seconds so as to elongate the targeted muscles.

Dynamic stretching – Another popular technique which entails use of momentum to propel the targeted body part into the maximum range of motion that it’s able to reach. An example would be an ultrarunner kicking forward to work on the hamstrings and quads to effectively improve strides. With dynamic stretching, this maneuver will have to be done with the least possible increase in the speed of the forward kicks so as to eliminate unnecessary and injury-causing jerky movements.

Stretching is a workout in itself though it may not seem that physically taxing. Just like any other workout, it can cause injuries just as easily as your other training routines if you overdo it. Though ultrarunning isn’t exactly a sport of moderation, after all, it’s tackling far longer distances than regular marathons, subscribe to the principle of moderation when it comes to stretching anyway. Doing so will ensure that you’re fully prepared yet in tip-top shape for that upcoming ultra.


Do you have questions about various stretching techniques, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

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