Static stretching is a set of movements, or stretches, that are done to lengthen, or stretch out, a muscle. These types of stretches are different from others because they are done when the body is at rest and is not moving. Slow and fluid movements are used to get to the stretched position, and this position is held for a certain period of time. There is no movement or bouncing while in the stretch. There are no additional weights used in a static stretch. Body weight is the only weight used.
There are two types of static stretching: active and passive. Active requires effort from the muscles of the body and passive requires no effort and uses assistance from another source. Doing this type of stretching before or after a workout will have many benefits such as relaxing the muscles and making them more flexible.
Active stretching is a stretching position that uses no assistance other than the strength of the agonist muscles. This is a muscle or group of muscles that cause certain movements only by contracting themselves. An active stretch will require the use of some effort.
An example of an active stretch would be standing and holding your arms extended up straight above your head. The muscles in your arms are contracting to hold your arms up. Another example would be standing on one leg and holding the opposite leg out in front of you. The muscles have to work to keep this leg up.
A passive stretch is the opposite of an active stretch. This is also referred to as relaxed stretching. A stretch of the passive sort does not require any effort as it will have assistance. This assistance could be from another body part or from an object such as a wall or even another person. Passive stretching is a common way of cooling down the muscles after a workout.
Doing the splits is a form of passive stretching, with the floor acting as the medium of assistance. Holding your knee up to your chest and wrapping your arms around this knee is a passive stretch. Crossing one arm over your head and using the other arm to apply pressure is another type of passive stretch.
Some static stretches can be done both passively and actively. If you are looking to stretch out your calf muscle, you can use the wall to do the stretch. You place your toes against the wall and press lightly to get a stretch. This would be a passive stretch. To do this stretch actively, you would step out with one leg while bending down and keeping the opposite leg behind you. Leaning forward will give the calf a stretch.
Static stretching is the most common form of stretching that is done. Many athletes use these types of stretches before working out or before events to get the muscles ready to perform. Static stretching also helps with flexibility, and will increase range of motion if done consistently.