If you already have a regular stretching practice, you may want to learn more about different types of stretching, the benefits of each, and sample stretches.

Passive stretching is a type of stretching in which you stay in one position for a set time. You’re able to relax your body while a partner, accessory, or prop intensifies the stretch by putting external pressure on your body. You can also use the floor or a wall.

During static stretching, you move your body as deep as it will go into the stretch. Once you’ve reached your limit or place of tension, you hold this position for up to 1 minute. Doing this allows your body to relax into the posture.

Stretching is an important part of being active. Its benefits enhance muscle function, allowing you to move with greater ease and comfort throughout your daily and athletic activities.

Regular stretching reduces your chance of injury, enhances flexibility, and increases range of motion. Your body will feel better when it has less of the muscle tension, soreness, and tightness that often accompany exercise.

Continue reading to learn more about stretching techniques, their benefits, and which options are best for you.

Passive stretching can improve flexibility, range of motion, and mobility. It helps improve your performance while lowering your risk of injury. Its benefits extend to people who may not be able to stretch on their own.

Passive stretching may also stimulate muscle growth and prevent muscle weakness. A 2013 study in animals showed that passive stretching for a short period each day can help build muscle.

While further research is necessary to confirm the long-term effects, these findings suggest that passive stretching could be beneficial for people who are unconscious or have paralysis.

An animal study from 2018 found that daily stretching improved blood flow to the muscles, which may improve their function. Muscle stretching that uses a splint could be especially useful for people who are elderly or unable to exercise independently. However, there is a need for in-depth human studies to expand on these findings.

Below are a few passive stretches to get you started.

Stretches to do alone

Supine single leg stretch

  1. Lie on your back and raise your left leg, keeping it straight.
  2. Extend your right leg straight out or bend your knee to place your foot on the floor.
  3. Interlace your hands behind your left thigh or calf, or place a towel or strap around the bottom of your foot.
  4. Pull your left leg toward your body with your hands or the towel or strap while pressing your leg back gently to resist the movement.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute, breathing normally.
  6. Release the leg slowly and repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

Standing quadriceps stretch

  1. Place your left hand against a chair or wall to help with balance.
  2. Stand on your left leg.
  3. Bend your right knee to bring the heel of your foot toward your buttocks.
  4. Reach your right hand, a towel, or a strap around your right ankle.
  5. Gently pull your foot toward your body.
  6. At the same time, press your foot against the resistance.
  7. Hold this position for up to 1 minute, breathing normally.
  8. Slowly release the right leg and repeat the steps using the left leg.

Doorway stretch

  1. Stand in a doorway.
  2. Bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle, with your palms facing forward.
  3. Press your palms into the doorframe.
  4. Step forward with your left foot as you stretch your shoulders and chest.
  5. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  6. Step back.
  7. Repeat with your opposite foot forward.
  8. Do this stretch 2 to 3 times on each side.

Stretches to do with a partner

Working with a partner can be greatly beneficial. They should use gentle resistance to maximize safety. Speak up if the stretch is too intense or you experience any pain.

Quadriceps stretch

  1. Lie on your belly with both legs extended.
  2. Allow your partner to move your lower left leg gently toward your buttocks.
  3. Push against this resistance for 5 seconds.
  4. Relax for 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 1 to 3 times.
  6. Switch to the right leg.

Hamstrings stretch

For more comfort, bend your extended leg and place your foot flat on the floor.

  1. Lie on your back with both legs extended and your partner facing you.
  2. Raise your left leg and place it against your partner’s shoulder.
  3. Press your hips and low back firmly into the floor.
  4. Allow your partner to press your leg slowly toward your torso.
  5. Push against this resistance for 5 seconds.
  6. Relax for 5 to 10 seconds.
  7. Repeat 1 to 3 times.
  8. Switch to the right leg.

Reclined butterfly stretch

  1. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet pressing into each other and your knees open to the sides.
  2. Allow your partner to apply gentle pressure to your lower thighs.
  3. At the same time, push your legs against this resistance for 10 to 30 seconds.
  4. Relax for 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 1 to 3 times.

Here’s a look at some of the most common types of stretching.


Active stretching gets your blood pumping and loosens up your muscles, which makes it ideal for warming up before a workout. Active stretching boosts blood flow to the muscle groups that you’ll be targeting during your workout.

You can actively stretch on your own by contracting your muscles without applying any external force.


This stretching technique relies on the assistance of a prop, accessory, or partner to increase the stretch, which means that you’re not actively contributing to increasing the range of motion.

Passive stretches enhance flexibility while preventing the muscle fatigue and soreness that often follow a workout. You can use them to cool down after you exercise. Passive stretches are useful when you’re recovering from an injury or cannot stretch on your own.


You can do dynamic stretches as a warmup to target the muscle groups and movements that you’ll be using during your workout. Dynamic stretches use smooth, controlled movements to increase range of motion and mobility. The constant movement that these stretches involve can improve flexibility and alleviate tightness in your muscles and joints.


Popular among athletes, ballistic stretches use force to move your body past its normal range of motion. These intense stretches target specific muscle groups using repetitive bouncing or jerky movements.

However, your body is unable to relax fully, and you may put too much pressure on your muscles and connective tissues. Take care to do these stretches safely and mindfully to reduce your chance of injury.

Active isolated stretching (AIS)

Active isolated stretching (AIS) requires you to move into a stretch until you reach a place of tension, and then hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds. You then perform a fixed number of repetitions and sets.

Each time you move into an AIS stretch, you can aim to extend past your previous point of resistance. It may help to use your hands or a rope, but you must be careful not to overstretch.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)

The proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching technique uses natural reflexes to allow muscles to relax and stretch to their maximum capacity. These deep, intense stretches calm your muscles to improve flexibility and increase range of motion.

Usually, you do these stretches with a partner who provides resistance. PNF stretching uses techniques that alternate between holding, contracting, and relaxing during a stretch. It is best to do this type of stretching under the guidance of a physical therapist or fitness professional.

Myofascial release

This self-massage technique uses gentle pressure to relieve tightness, tension, and muscle knots. During myofascial release, you target areas of concern, sometimes called trigger points, using a foam roller, tennis ball, or massage stick.

You move the tool back and forth over sensitive areas to alleviate tenderness, reduce inflammation, and increase range of motion.

Talk to an exercise professional if you are new to exercise or have any health concerns, including injuries. They can assess your current levels of fitness and flexibility to devise a tailored plan to suit your needs. A trainer can help you move past any existing limitations as you work toward your goals.

A fitness professional can work with you to ensure that you’re doing the stretches correctly to maximize the benefits. Proper technique involves aligning your body and ensuring that you have equal flexibility between your sides, which lowers your chance of injury.

Stretching is a vital part of an active lifestyle. Reduced muscle tension, a greater range of motion, and enhanced flexibility are a few of the benefits that may motivate you to stretch consistently.

Listen to your body, take a break when necessary, and work within your limits. Reach out to a fitness professional, physical therapist, or doctor if you have any health concerns or want personalized instruction.