Stretching is commonly done to improve flexibility of muscles and connective tissue and to boost joint mobility. The most common form is the "static" stretch, where an athlete assumes a posture that elongates a group of muscles—a toe touch to stretch the hamstrings, for example—and holds for up to 60 seconds at a time. Utilizing stretching that influences the brain, such as contract relax technique, may be more effective for gaining flexibility, according to Leon Chaitow, author of "Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques."
Hamstring Contract Relax Stretch
Position yourself on your stretching surface lying on your back, with one leg flat on the mat and the other in the air, at a 90-degree angle.
Have your partner carefully push your vertical leg forward, toward your head, until you feel a gentle stretch on a group of muscles. Hold that position for 10 seconds.
Contract your hamstring being stretched by pushing back into your partner's resistance with approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of your total strength for six to eight seconds. It should be comfortable.
Relax and have your partner push your limb to the new stretch barrier and hold for six to eight seconds.
Repeat the contract and relax cycle up to three more times before repeating on the other limb.
Hip Flexor Contract Relax
Lie face down on a massage table with one leg on the floor and the other straight on the table.
Have your partner grasp the ankle of the leg on the table, and flex your knee toward your backside until you feel the stretch. It should not be painful.
Push to straighten your knee against your partner's resistance with 20 percent to 30 percent of your strength for six to eight seconds.
Relax and let your partner take your heel to the new stretch barrier.
Repeat the cycle up to three times before performing the stretch on the opposite leg.
Thoracic Spine Contract Relax Stretch
Lie on your side with your top knee and hip flexed to 90 degrees.
Roll your top shoulder to the floor behind you as your partner keeps your knee from coming off the floor.
Have your partner place his other hand on your top shoulder.
Contract your abdominals and attempt to push your top shoulder toward your knee with about 20 percent to 30 percent of your total strength for six to eight seconds.
Relax and allow your partner to push you to your new barrier in rotation. Hold for six to eight seconds and repeat up to three times before switching sides.
Do not use too much pressure against your partner's resistance. Less is often more, says Chaitow.
Stretching should never be painful.