Self Stretching Videos

Types Of Stretches And What They Are Used For

There are many different forms of stretching, and they have different purposes. As stretching has been around in medicine as a form of treatment for many years, as well as has been incorporated into some forms of exercise, such as Yoga, there is quite a bit of research on this topic. Stretching has been widely researched on a variety of age groups, exercise backgrounds, and medical histories. Because of the extent of the research and varying populations, much of the data regarding stretching is mixed. Some of which depends on the purpose it is being used for, the extent of the stretching, and how often it is done. Overall, there are a few things to keep in mind when looking into the different types of stretching and what they are traditionally used for.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is the classic form of stretching where you hold a stretch for 30 seconds and then relax. This form of stretching is typically performed to improve relaxation, active range of motion (motion in/around a joint), and recovery AFTER a workout. Although there is mixed data, some research studies have found that utilizing this type of stretching prior to a workout/ athletic activity, can cause muscle strength decreases. A decrease in muscle strength and overall performance was more associated with activities involving running, jumping, and quick movements. The loss of strength resulting from acute static stretching has been termed “stretch-induced strength loss.” This idea has been highly contested and does depend on the type of activity being performed, if utilized prior to a workout, as well as how long the stretches are being performed. Other studies have shown an increase in performance with certain activities. Current research suggests using static stretching after a workout to promote recovery and decrease stiffness and lactic acid buildup. If utilized before, it is recommended to perform an active warm-up prior to beginning more strenuous activity.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a newer form of stretching often used in athletics. It is the idea of warming up the muscles with active movement, instead of with a prolonged stretch. For instance, someone warming up for hurdles may perform dynamic stretching with hip circles to help improve end range of hip motion in preparation for jumping. They may even perform high knees or butt kicks to warm up the muscles in the positions they will be used in. Although it is sometimes confused with a warm-up, a warm-up typically gets the body ready for general activity, whereas dynamic stretching helps improve flexibility in specific muscles for a specific activity.

PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)

PNF stretching uses alternating contractions of muscles/ muscle groups to help improve passive and/or active flexibility. There are many different types of PNF stretching. Some forms are used prior to an athletic event to warm up multiple muscle groups at once and improve overall speed and strength of muscle contraction. Other forms are used with a neurological population to break up abnormal muscle tone or facilitate movement. The techniques used will vary by purpose, and will be determined by a medical professional.

Rehabilitation Stretching

“Stretching is prescribed to increase muscle length and range of motion, or to align collagen fibers during the healing process.1” Depending on the type of injury, different forms of stretching are used. In some cases, a mix of the above types of stretching are used. It all depends on the muscle injured, how a muscle was injured, and even if it was surgically fixed. Your healthcare provider will help assess you and your needs before choosing a type of stretching program that will be right for you.

Overall Recommendations

  1. The benefits of stretching vary, and are population and activity specific.
  2. To increase range of motion, all types of stretching are effective, although some forms of stretching may be more effective for immediate gains.
  3. To avoid a decrease in muscles strength and performance, dynamic stretching is recommended prior to activity.


  1. Page P. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(1):109-119.

Additional Resources: