Ready to expand the results of your flexibility training? It’s time to activate your active stretching routine. This type of stretching offers some pretty sweet perks for all fitness levels.

Here’s a deep dive into the biggest benefits, plus how it stacks up to other types of stretching.

Fast facts on active stretching

  • What is active stretching? Active stretching is when you contract one set of muscles to stretch another. Unlike other types of stretches, you don’t need to use external force or a stretching partner. This makes it a great routine for at-home or on-the-go workouts.
  • Active stretching vs passive stretching. Passive stretching is when you use a prop or partner to put external pressure on your body. With active stretching, you’ll create resistance using your own muscles.
  • How do you do an active stretch? To do an active stretch, flex one muscle (aka the agonist) to stretch an opposing muscle (aka the antagonist). Hold the stretch for up to 15 seconds.

Benefits of active stretching:

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Active stretching involves contracting one muscle to stretch another muscle without using external force. A major perk is that you don’t need any equipment to create resistance. All you need is your own body! Generally, you’ll hold active stretches for 10 to 15 seconds.

This type of stretching can boost blood flow to your muscles. That makes it a top-notch addition to your warmup and cooldown routine. You can also add it to a mobility workout or as part of your yoga practice.

Active stretches are a great way to increase your flexibility. But how do they match up to other popular types of stretches? Here’s the DL.

Passive stretching

Passive stretching helps your muscles and connective tissues relax. You’ll use an external force to create the resistance for the stretch. That external force could be a workout accessory (like a resistance band) or a workout buddy. You’ll hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Examples of passive stretches include:

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretches are a dynamite addition to your workout warmups. You’ll move a body part through its full range of motion. This can help improve flexibility and relax tight muscles.

Some examples include:

Ballistic stretching

Ballistic stretches target specific muscle groups using intense movements. They require repetitive bouncing or jerking movements that push a body part past its normal range of motion.

PSA: The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons warns that ballistic stretching can result in injury. These stretches aren’t a good idea for fitness newbies. You should talk with a physical therapist before trying them.

Any type of stretch can boast some dope benefits. Here’s what active stretches can do for you.

  • Better movement. Active stretching can help you increase flexibility and enhance your range of motion.
  • Pain relief and recovery. Stretching on the reg can increase blood flow to your muscles. This might reduce your recovery time and decrease muscle soreness.
  • Maintained muscle. Studies show active stretching can help regulate muscle fiber length. This might mean it can help prevent muscle atrophy (muscle loss). But we still need more research to prove that this actually works.
  • Improved posture. A 2015 study found that a combo of stretching and strengthening specific muscles can help improve your posture. The study also noted participants had reduced musculoskeletal pain. But TBH, we need more studies to show if active stretching alone can help.

Active stretching is super simple once you understand the basics. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Decide which muscle you want to stretch.
  2. Contract the agonist muscle. (That’s the muscle on the opposite side of the muscle you want to stretch.)
  3. Hold the position for 10–15 seconds.
  4. If you’re stretching a muscle that has a matching partner on the other side of your body, repeat the stretch on that side, too.

FYI: You might feel a burning or tingling sensation as you stretch. But you shouldn’t be in pain. So if it hurts, STOP! Overstretching can lead to a sprain or strain.

Here’s a step-by-step active stretch guide to target five different areas of the body.

Best for your glutes

Glutes are a group of three muscles that make up your butt 🍑 .

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  2. Bend your right knee and cross it over your left thigh.
  3. Plant your right foot flat on the floor.
  4. Place your left elbow on the outside of your right thigh.
  5. Gently twist your upper body to the right.
  6. Hold for 10–15 seconds.
  7. Switch sides.

Pro tip: This stretch shouldn’t be a pain in the neck. Make sure you don’t push too hard.

Best for your triceps

Triceps are located on the back of your upper arm. They run from your shoulder to elbow.

  1. Stand tall with a straight back.
  2. Reach your left arm up to the ceiling without raising your shoulders.
  3. Bend your elbow until your hand reaches between your shoulder blades.
  4. Hold for 10–15 seconds.
  5. Switch sides.

Pro tip: Try to keep your elbow pointed up toward the ceiling.

Best for your chest

This stretch mainly targets your pecs. But you should also feel it in your biceps.

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Reach both arms out to your sides at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Open your arms as wide as you can as you extend them behind your body.
  4. Be sure to keep your spine aligned and try not to arch.
  5. Hold for 10–15 seconds.

Pro tip: Turn your palms up toward the ceiling if you really want to feel the burn.

Best for your quads

The quadriceps are a group of four muscles located on the front of your thighs.

  1. Stand tall with your spine aligned.
  2. Place your feet hip-distance apart.
  3. Bend your left knee and lift your foot behind you.
  4. Try to touch your heel to your butt.
  5. Hold for 10–15 seconds.
  6. Switch sides.

Pro tip: Place a hand on a chair or the wall for balance.

Best for your hamstrings

Hamstrings are the muscles that run up the back of your leg from knee to thigh.

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Straighten your legs along the floor.
  3. Lift your left leg up to the ceiling.
  4. Keep your leg straight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  5. Hold for 10–15 seconds.
  6. Switch sides.

Pro tip: Lower your lifted leg a bit if your tailbone starts to tuck in. You can also use your opposite foot for extra support.

Active stretches involve using your body to create resistance. All you have to do is flex a muscle opposite to the muscle you want to stretch. Try to hold the position for up to 15 seconds.

Active stretches are a fab addition to any workout routine. Just be sure to keep things controlled. Pushing past your limits is a one-way ticket to Ow Town.

Pro tip: Talk with a physical therapist or licensed personal trainer before starting a new stretching routine (especially if you have a preexisting injury).