Stretching: types, benefits and how to do it (home, gym)

The human body has, on average, 650 muscles, which form a large and unique muscle chain. We can speak, for example, in a posterior chain, anterior chain and so on. And that is precisely why stretching is so important.

When a muscle is weakened or injured, it can affect nearby regions. This is because, with the injury, the person moves less and the nearby muscles end up being shortened.

Stretching is essential not only for cases where injuries have occurred, but mainly to prevent them from occurring, that is, it is also used to prevent problems.

Let’s understand more about stretching and how it manages to offer several benefits for our health as a whole. Follow us!


What is stretching?

Stretching is a type of physical activity in which the main objective is to maintain or increase the patient’s physical range.

It is also used as a type of movement that can help prevent injuries, especially during physical exercise, which requires a high level of range of motion.

Stretching helps to improve flexibility, making movements easier to perform. It is indicated not only for those who practice physical activity, but also for sedentary ones.

The exercises promote a slight stretching of the muscle fiber, which, in general, reduces tension in the region. This allows most tasks and movements to be done more properly.

Stretching only works when done steadily. Therefore, the ideal is to do it every day. To give you more disposition, doing a sequence of stretches every day upon waking up is a great option.

You can also do it before bed to relax your muscles and after exercise when your body is warm.

If you are injured, do not stretch in the area. It is best to look for a suitable health professional such as the orthopedist and physiotherapist to receive a diagnosis and carry out the treatment.

What are the types of stretching?

There are some types of stretching, which we will see below:

Dynamic or ballistic

Dynamic or ballistic stretching is especially indicated for people who play sports, as it offers greater flexibility, helping the athlete’s performance.

This type must be performed after the person has done some kind of warm-up such as squats, static running and so on. In general, it is done by moving the body, in a rhythmic and short way, with displacement through the ground.


In static stretching, on the other hand, the person remains stationary while the muscle stretches. In fact, this is the most common type. The ideal time for maintaining the static position is between 20 and 30 seconds.

Past 30 seconds can impair muscle performance because it provides relaxation. Thus, fast-acting fibers are unable to do the job to their full potential.

Static stretching is highly recommended after physical exercise, such as weight training , and also in cases of muscle rehabilitation.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)

We can say that this is a type of passive stretching, as the patient remains stationary. However, unlike Static stretching, PNF is indicated for rehabilitation in patients with neurological problems.

It must be performed with a 30-second stretch and, at the end, the professional must offer a type of neurological stimulus. The patient will try to overcome the force imposed by the professional in the opposite direction, however, at the same angle performed in the initial movement.

Passive stretching

The type of passive stretching is performed with the help of some type of device, mobile or part of the house. For example, when the person lies on the floor, raises his legs and touches the buttocks and the back of the legs against the wall in order to stretch the back of the body, he is using passive stretching.

In rehabilitation centers, it is common, for example, to see professionals performing stretches with an elastic band. Each has a different resistance, with black being the most resistant.

What are the benefits of stretching?

Stretching can bring benefits to the whole body, acting as exercises capable of rehabilitating patients (reducing pain and treating injuries), improving the quality of life and well-being, in addition to preventing injuries in sports people or even sedentary people. See more about the benefits of doing so:

Promotes greater elasticity

Stretching promotes not only greater elasticity of the muscles, but also the fascia (tissue that lines the muscles) and tendons. Thus, the movements of day to day or in the gym are easier.

Relieves tension

The stress causes the release of two substances: cortisol and adrenocorticotropic. They increase our perception of pain and also make muscles more tense. Constant stretching reduces the action of these stress substances.

Promotes greater breadth

Whoever has some kind of shortening is not able to perform movements completely and, thus, the results of weight training or other physical activities take longer to arrive.

For example, those who have a shortening in the back chair (the back of the thighs) have great difficulty in doing squats, especially in the free style (without the use of apparatus).

When working with daily stretches, the range of motion increases and the person will be able, little by little, to do the complete movement. This improves performance and offers faster results.

Improves posture

Did you know that muscle tension and shortening can cause problems in posture, causing back pain ? For example, shortening in the lower back makes the region straighter, impairing posture.

The normal curvature of the spine is important to keep it in an ideal posture, and when this is not possible, pain and other secondary injuries can happen.

One of them may be scoliosis (deviation in the spine) as a form of compensation to keep the spine in a more comfortable posture. The muscles are improperly positioned and, because they are weakened, they end up not supporting the spine in the ideal position.

Promotes better sleep

Stretching can help improve sleep problems.

This is because they can be caused by stress which, in turn, makes the muscles more tense. Thus, it is difficult to fall asleep.

A good sequence of stretches before bed can be a great option. Take a hot shower and then stretch, helping your body to relax.

Help in the treatment of injuries

Stretching before the physiotherapy session is not only to promote muscle relaxation, but also for another reason.

When we are injured or in pain in some part of the body, it is normal to keep that region at rest to the maximum. The problem is that it shortens the nearby musculature.

For example, let’s say you have knee pain. Not only the muscles of the quadriceps but also that of the posterior chain (back of the thigh) of the leg is impaired.

In this case, the entire limb needs to be stretched to prevent further injuries from settling by reducing usage.

Improves mood

Like any other physical activity, stretching can also release serotonin , which is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.

People with depression , anxiety and other psychiatric disorders may experience a drop in the production of this substance. Thus, stretching every day, for example, in the morning, can help to make the day lighter.

Who should do the stretch?

Anyone can and should do stretching, especially to maintain range of motion, flexibility of muscles and joint movement.

However, Kisner (an expert on the subject and a professor at Ohio State University ) shows some more specific indications. Stretching is especially suitable for those who have:

  • Impaired range of motion (usually a consequence of contractures);
  • Scars without proper professional monitoring, which can shorten the region;
  • Limitations that interfere with day-to-day tasks;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Retraction of antagonistic muscles, for example, is unable to keep the knee extended because the muscles of the back of the thigh are shortened.

And, like any treatment or medication, stretching also has its contraindications.

These are the cases, for example, of bone fracture, inflammatory or infectious processes in the joint (such as rheumatoid arthritis ) or outside it, bone block and trauma to the tissues. It can also be contraindicated in cases in which soft tissue shortening is helping to promote joint stability.

For example, shortening the quadriceps (the main thigh muscle) may be helping to keep the knee joint stable. In such cases, the best thing to do is to ask for the help of professionals, making exams and a treatment that is able to lengthen the shortened parts without interfering in the health of the joint.

What stretching exercises can I do at home?

Because it is a simple type of activity, most people can do a series of stretching exercises at home. See the main ones below:

Elongation of the posterior chain

The back of the thigh needs to be stretched frequently and many people have this shortened musculature, especially those who spend long hours sitting.

One of the simplest ways to promote this stretch is, standing or sitting, trying to touch the toes = with your legs straight. Have you done that? To stretch further, stay in that position and try to bring your chin closer to your chest.

Another way to stretch this part of the body is to lie down and resort to the help of a towel, stretching one leg at a time.

Place the middle of the towel as if it were a type of footrest and hold the ends with your hands. Then, raise your leg as far as you can, keeping it straight.

Elongation of the anterior chain

The body will be in a position like a pendulum. The starting position is as follows: face down, hold each foot with your hands (bend your knees to reach). To stretch, keep your chest and knees off the floor.

Lateral elongation of the spine

Sit close to a wall or something that can be supported. Support your hand, laterally, on the wall. Then bring your other hand against the wall, lifting it over your head.

Pectoral stretch

The pectoral muscles are very important and tend to be shortened due to our posture on a daily basis. Therefore, you must stretch them every day.

To do this, simply interlace your fingers behind your body and move them away from your back. Feel that the upper chest is stretching and hold for 30 seconds or more to relax.

Scapular muscle stretching

Scapulas, also called “back shovels”, are bones that help in the most diverse movements. But without proper stretching, the surrounding muscles can stick and contract.

To avoid this, stretch one arm and keep it stretched horizontally. With your other hand resting on your elbow, pull your arm closer to you.

Elongation of neck and trapezoids

Trapezoids (upper, middle and lower) are the muscles that are close to the neck, on the sides of the neck, and that usually cause a lot of discomfort and pain.

To alleviate this discomfort, every day, stretch the region. Place your right hand on the left side of your head, over your ear. Pull your head to the right side while keeping your left shoulder firm. Do the same with the other side.

In addition, the neck has several muscles and those in the anterior region tend to be shortened due to our position looking at the cell phone or else at the computer screen (if it is not at eye level, which is correct).

Therefore, every day, you should stretch this region by looking up and throwing your head back as far as possible, within your limits. Then do the reverse movement and try to rest your chin on your chest.

Elongation of the outer side of the thigh (abductors)

Sitting, with your back supported and your legs straight, flex one knee and pass your leg over the other, supporting your foot on the other side of the leg (it should be fully supported).

Now, with the help of the hand on the opposite side of the leg that is bent, pull the knee. Do the same with the other leg.

Elongation of the inner side (adductors)

Here it is very simple. Just sit in the butterfly position with your back supported and your hands on your knees, and push your legs down.

Stretching is essential to protect your muscles and prevent injury. In addition, stretching members helps you relax, whether in the morning or after activities!

For more important tips on physical activity, health and well-being, follow the Healthy Minute!