The concept of stretching is important for almost everyone in the health and fitness industry. Stretching tends to be prescribed for anyone regardless of goals or proper assessments. What is interesting is that there are many individuals who do constantly stretch but never seem to make any improvements in their flexibility or continue to feel muscle or joint tightness. Perhaps it could be the type of stretching that is being practiced? Perhaps there is one change to the style of stretching that could improve flexibility and also be safe at the same time.

This change involves simply performing an active stretch instead of a passive stretch. With an active stretch, you are asking muscles to move you into a position instead of allowing for gravity or other external factors (such as your arms, towel, bands) to move you into the position. In order to gain flexibility, the muscles that move you into that position need to engage.

All you need to do is focus on contracting the muscles on the opposite of the joint from the muscle you are trying to relax. An example is the hamstring. Assume you want to increase your range of motion at the hip, lifting your leg higher, but you notice your hamstring starts to tighten and you cannot lift the leg any further. If you strengthen the quadriceps and hip flexor muscles, you will be able to lift the leg higher.

There may be some limiting factors, such as possible scar tissue or even joint structure that will limit how far you can lift the leg. The important factor to remember is that if the muscles are in fact the limiting factor, then it would be wise to contract these muscles instead of trying to “stretch” the hamstrings.