Stretching - When and how to stretch properly

stretching exercises fitness training muscles tension

Stretching is a heavily discussed topic among experts. Different studies over the years have given a very diverse and complex image when it comes to stretch exercises and their effects. The injury preventive effects of static stretches e.g. before an exercise could not be confirmed. It is also unclear whether stretching leads to an improvement in mobility. Nevertheless, experience from top athletes shows that the targeted use of stretching at different points in time can be effective.

How do I stretch correctly and why?

Stretching exercises Training

Since the reason for the success of certain methods is usually only discovered years, or even decades, later in sports science studies, it is usually advisable to follow the guidelines of experts with a wealth of experience.

But be aware: An expert is someone who can demonstrate years of successful experience in professional sports and not necessarily the person who has gained the most YouTube followers with his or her training tips.

Different methods and areas of application

Primarily, stretching serves to improve mobility, as well as resilience. The most effective way to achieve this is through static stretching, passive stretching or tension-relaxation stretching. Another aspect of stretching is to prepare the body for movements. Inparticular ones that involve a large range of motion, but also to ensure general preparation of the musculoskeletal system. In this case, light dynamic stretching is recommended, ideally in combination with mobility exercises for the affected joints.

Why? Improves mobility
How? Hold the stretching position at maximum stretch (usually for 1-2 min)
When? On its own or after a moderate workout
Why? Improves mobility
How? A training partner or therapist stretches the structure / muscle passively. The stretching position is partially held and partially deepened with slight movement
When? On its own or after a moderate workout
Why? Prepares muscles, tendons and ligaments for movement
How? Perform rocking movements with a slight stretch (approx. 30 seconds per muscle group), if necessary perform controlled movements over the entire range of motion
When? Before workout
Why? Improves mobility
How? Can be done alone or with a partner. Alone, hold stretching position (for 1-2 min) while briefly tensing and releasing the opposite muscle of the one being stretched (about every 10 seconds) to expand the stretching position. With a partner: the partner actively loads the opposing muscle. Follow with a passive stretch.
When? On its own or after a moderate workout
Why? This is not a stretch exercise, however it can be combined well with stretching as a preparation for your workout.
How? Start by moving individual joints, then multiple joints in their full range of movement. Do this initially without load (e.g. circling the ankle, knee, hip, etc.), then later with load (e.g. rocking the heel on toes, circling the shoulder with supported wrists, etc.)
When? Do them before your workout or on their own (mobility flows), you will find them integrated in many yoga workouts.

How do I improve my mobility?

stretching flexibility training

An increase in mobility is desirable for almost anyone. In order to improve your mobility, it is best to do a mixture of mobility exercises and static stretching exercises (as well as a good warm-up) which includes dynamic stretching exercises, before your workout.

Sitting long and often triggers a mechanical stimulus that gradually restricts our hip mobility. Additionaly, unfavorable postures and one-sided movements occur in sports and daily life.

What is the best time to stretch?

Stretch Flexibility Sore Muscles Training

To improve mobility it is best to use a stretching routine very regularly and independently of other activities. A daily 15 minute routine will get you much further than a weekly one hour routine.

Pre-workout: dynamic strechtes to prepare your muscles, tendons and ligaments (especially for acyclic movements such as ball sports, weight training, martial arts, etc.)

Stretching with sore muscles or tight muscles

Sore Muscles Tight Muscles
Avoid static stretching if your muscles are very sore Listen to your body
Result: “Pulling” on the muscles lengthens the regeneration process and worsens the sore muscles Result: Some stretching exercises can be beneficial for tensed muscles, some can make the pain worse. Try and find out what works best for you!

Preventing injuries

In the long run, stretching regularly before workouts will help you prevent injuries.

A direct correlation between stretching before training and injury prevention has not been proven, but every gymnast will confirm that their sport cannot be performed without mobilizing their joints and stretching their muscles beforehand. However, it is undisputed that a long-term improvement in mobility through regular stretching prevents injuries. Therefore, you should incorporate stretching consistently and permanently into your training. Sports such as running and ball sports use a very small proportion of the full range of motion and place a very one-sided strain on the body. This promotes both limited mobility and muscular imbalances, which you should offset with stretching and strength training.

How intensive and how often?

standing calf stretching

A good start is to always stretch dynamically before a workout and to follow up with a short static stretching routine after a workout (with moderate exertion). It makes sense to do a full body stretching routine at least every other day.

This does not have to take much time, but its best to do it regularly and consistently. Better 15 minutes a day than an hour once a week. In static stretching, to improve mobility, you should focus 1-2 minutes on each muscle group and feel a light, but easily bearable stretching pain.

Stretching exercises for muscle groups

Stretching exercises Training

The stretches below target the most commonly “shortened” muscle groups in order from most to least. You can use them as a template for a daily stretching routine:

Standing calf stretch

Targeted muscle group: calves


  • Support your hands at shoulder height against a wall in front of your torso. Your torso should be tilted about 45 ° forward
  • Bend your left leg under your center of gravity
  • Place your right leg behind your body forming a straight line from back to legs
  • Actively press the heel of your right leg towards the floor while pushing your pelvis forward so that your calf is stretched
  • If your heel is on the ground, but you still can’t feel a stretch, place your hands lower, bend your upper body further and move your right leg further back.
  • Do this stretch on both sides

Sit and reach stretch

Targeted muscle groups: back thighs, hip extensors, back extensors


  • Sit on the floor with closed straight legs
  • Now lean your upper body forward as far as possible without bending your legs
  • Hold this position, e.g. by holding your lower legs or toes
  • Breathe in and out shallowly, trying to get your upper body a little deeper into the stretch with each exhale

Tip: For this stretching exercise, it can help to use a towel. Hold both ends of the towel while the middle is wrapped around the soles of your feet. This will help you to get a little deeper into the stretch if you can’t reach your toes yet.

Pancake stretch

Targeted muscle groups: back thighs, abductors


  • Again sit on the floor with your legs straight, but this time with your legs apart (as far as possible)
  • Now try to put your upper body down between your legs towards the floor

Tip: With this stretch it can be helpfull to have a partner who can press lightly against your back.

Kneeling Couch Stretch

Targeted muscle groups: front thighs, hip flexors


  • Get into a half-kneeling position with your right knee on the floor and your left foot lifted up.
  • All leg angles should be about 90 degrees
  • Then grab your right foot with your right hand, pull it towards your bottom, straighten your upper body and push your hips forward.
  • It’s okay to hold onto something and stabilize yourself with your free hand during the exercise.
  • Do this stretch on both sides

90 / 90 Stretch

Targeted muscle group: Abductors


  • Sit on your bottom and put your right knee in front of you with your leg bent
  • Place your left knee at an angle to your left
  • Both leg angles should now be 90 °
  • Now try to rest your upper body on your right thigh so that your chin is directly in front of your knee
  • Do this stretch on both sides

Doorframe Lat Stretch

Affected muscle group: Lats (Latissimus)


  • Stand in front of the right side of a door frame and reach around the back of the frame with your right hand at shoulder height
  • Now bend your upper body forward and push your buttocks back until your hips, shoulder and hand of the right arm form a line
  • You are now hanging slightly on your right hand
  • Now grab your front right upper body with your left hand and push your right shoulder a little further to the right
  • You should feel a significant stretch on the right side of your body below your shoulder
  • Do this stretch on both sides

Wall chest stretch

Targeted muscle group: chest


  • Stand with the right side of your body close to a wall
  • Your right foot should be a little more in front
  • Now put your right hand with the palm a little above shoulder height, with your arm stretched behind your body, on the wall
  • Rotate the shoulder to the left to create a stretch in the chest muscles and arm flexors
  • Do this stretch on both sides

More exciting articles