Passive vs. Active Flexibility - How does yours measure up?

You've likely heard the terms passive & active before but it's possible that you're not 100% sure what they mean, if so, that's a-okay!


When it comes to stretching, there a few different approaches. While they are all beneficial, stretching isn't a one size fits all approach. We all need something a bit different depending on our movement background, current or previous injuries, stress level & so much more.


As aerialists, it's important to have a good range of motion in both passive & active flexibility. For many, their passive flexibility is far better than their active. Try some of the examples in the video below to see where you're at!



The goal is to close the gap between passive vs. active so you have more strength to back up your flexibility, fewer imbalances in the body and can achieve shapes/ skills more easily in the air!


Passive stretching is good for relaxation and can improve your resting muscle length short term. When you are working on passive stretching you want to relax the area of the body you are trying to stretch while still gently engaging the muscles necessary to maintain correct alignment.


Passive stretching is done with the support of an external force such as the floor, the wall, your hands, etc. It can feel good & helps to gain short-term results.


Examples of passive stretching:

Stretching forward in pike or straddle with hands resting down and splits on the floor.


Active stretching, on the other hand, involves engagement of the muscle group that is in opposition to the muscles that you are stretching. It's a beneficial way to warm-up and prepares your muscles prior to practicing aerial or even handstands! With active stretching, you don't have the help of an external force, it's all you!


This method not only develops strength it also improves flexibility in specific areas, it can address muscle imbalances and can retrain your nervous system’s reaction to stretching. Oftentimes our body resists stretching if we're not accustomed to it, or if we've had a previous injury in an area we're trying to stretch. While it's definitely a stretching method that takes work, the rewards of active stretching prove to be longer-lasting than only the passive approach.


Examples of active flexibility:

An inverted split between the silks or in a handstand. Holding your leg up without the use your hands.


Next time you warm-up for aerial use a good mix of both passive/active stretching & see how you feel!

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