Locations:
Search IconSearch

Why You Should Try Assisted Stretching

Having a partner help you stretch can prevent injury and lead to an increased range of motion

Two people helping each other stretch on floor.

It’s a familiar scene: You’re watching the big game and see the wide receiver or the point guard on the sidelines stretching out their hamstrings with help of a trainer.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

This type of stretching is known as assisted stretching or partner-assisted stretching and can be beneficial when it comes to increasing your flexibility and range of motion.

So, whether you’re recovering from an injury or just want some relief from chronic back pain, is this something you should try?

Exercise specialist Ben Kuharik walks us through what assisted stretching is, its benefits and some basic moves to try.

What is assisted stretching?

Assisted stretching is a form of passive stretching, which uses an outside force to stretch your muscles. You can use a towel, fitness strap or in the case of assisted stretching, you can use a partner.

Assisted stretching is also known in the physical therapy space as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF stretching.

“With assisted stretching, you use a friend, trainer or teammate to apply an external force to help with your stretches,” explains Kuharik.

You may be familiar with dynamic stretching, which involves moving your joints and muscles repeatedly in the same motion before physical activity to help improve your power and coordination.

Or you may have heard of static active stretching, which is based on holding a stretch as far as you can go for a set length of time, typically 30 to 90 seconds. This type of stretch can improve your flexibility and improve balance.

“But with assistance stretching, you’re spending more time focusing on stretching out a specific area, which can lead to an increased range of motion,” says Kuharik.

How does it work?

All you need is a partner — whether that’s a family member, teammate or gym buddy — to help guide you through stretches. Practitioners and physical therapists are often trained on assisted stretching and can help you determine the best stretches for you and your goals.

“During an assisted stretch, you’re pushing the leg, arm or other body part of your partner into a lengthened position,” explains Kuharik. “That’s followed by flexing the lengthened muscle as hard as you can for five to 10 seconds.”

Advertisement

That action causes your muscle to become fatigued or tired.

“Then your muscle naturally relaxes,” Kuharik continues. “And that’s where the partner comes in and pushes your muscle a little bit further to a point your muscle normally wouldn’t get to in a non-fatigued state.”

The goal? To push your muscles a little more, which results in a deeper stretch and improved flexibility and range of motion.

“Over time, after doing an assisted stretch a few times, that expanded stretch will become your natural range of motion,” says Kuharik.

Assisted stretching benefits

Is assisted stretching worth it? Yes, stretching can be great to help with aches and pains. Here are some benefits of assisted stretching:

  • Promotes communication. Having a partner walk you through a stretch with you can be helpful in avoiding injury. You should have an ongoing conversation about how you’re feeling during each stretch. “Your partner isn’t looking for a ton of resistance in your stretch,” notes Kuharik. “The goal is to just get a few degrees deeper with each stretch.”
  • Increases range of motion. By working on improving how far you can stretch with each session, you’ll slowly become more limber. And if you’re recovering from an injury, this can help not only return to your original flexibility, but also help improve it.
  • Reduces stiffness and tension. While you may be a little sore the next day, Kuharik says that as you improve your range of motion, you’ll notice less stiffness and tension in your muscles. “Your muscles will feel looser and you’ll feel less achy.”

Assisted stretching examples

Want to give assisted stretching a try? Here are a few basic assisted stretching moves:

Stretch for your hamstrings

This single-leg stretch helps loosen up tight hamstrings.

  1. Lie down face-up on the floor with both of your legs straight and have your partner kneel at your feet.
  2. Place your left leg on your partner’s shoulder and try to force your leg down to the floor, squeezing as hard as you can.
  3. Hold the stretch for five to 10 seconds.
  4. Relax the muscle for five to 10 seconds, and then have your partner gently push the leg past its normal range. Hold this stretch for five to 10 seconds.
  5. Rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat three to four times and then switch legs.

Stretch for your quads

This is a good stretch for your quads, which can help prevent injury and increase flexibility.

  1. Lie down on your stomach with both of your legs straight. Have your partner kneel at your feet.
  2. Bend one knee toward your glutes (butt muscles), while the other leg stays straight.
  3. Have your partner place their hand under your knee, while using their other hand to press your leg towards your glutes.
  4. Hold the stretch for five to 10 seconds.
  5. Relax the muscle for five to 10 seconds, and then repeat three to four times. Switch legs.

Stretch for your chest

Spend your days hunched over a computer or desk? This stretch can help relieve any tightness you have.

  1. Stand up and have your partner stand behind you.
  2. Raise your arm at your sides.
  3. Have your partner gently pull your arms back until you feel tension.
  4. Hold the stretch for five to 10 seconds.
  5. Relax your arms and repeat three or four times.

Advertisement

Does assisted stretching work? Whether you’re an athlete or just sit at your desk all day long, assisted stretching can help.

“If you want to gain flexibility, this is certainly the best type of stretching to increase your range of motion,” says Kuharik.

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person on walking pad in living room, with TV on
July 3, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Here’s How To Make the Most Out of the ‘Cozy Cardio’ Trend

It’s not the only exercise you should do, but this gentle way to get active can help you get out of a workout slump

Person stretching on foam roller
June 28, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Stretching Before or After Exercise: Which Is Better?

Stretch before and after your workouts for maximum benefits, but your pre-workout stretches should be different from your post-workout stretches

Person using rowing machine in home gym
June 27, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Catch, Drive, Finish and Recover! The Top 7 Benefits of Rowing Machines

This low-impact, full-body workout builds strength and stamina while reducing stress

Healthcare provider checking patient's knee
June 19, 2024/Chronic Pain
Arthritis Exercise: What To Try and What To Avoid

Exercising can actually improve arthritis symptoms — and low-impact exercises are best

Caregivers holding toddler, playing in ocean
June 18, 2024/Infectious Disease
How To Stay Safe From Recreational Waterborne Diseases

You can reduce your risk by not swallowing water, and showering before and after swimming

Person doing a Bulgarian-split squat outside
June 17, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
10 Squat Variations To Add to Your Workout

Bulgarian split squats, hack squats and goblet squats are just a few of the moves you can try

Older person smiling, taking in the outdoors
June 13, 2024/Mental Health
Put Intention Behind Your Walking Meditation

While walking, be mindful of your body, your mind, your place in the world and all five of your senses as you pave a path forward, one step at a time

Person in a deep squat
June 13, 2024/Exercise & Fitness
Here’s the Right Way To Do a Squat

Squat smart with proper technique, including a neutral spine, wide knees and an engaged core

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad