Student Health and Wellness Services

Stretching 101

Stretching increases your flexibility, improves your physical performance during exercise, and makes daily functions easier. It also helps increase range of motion in the joints which can help reduce the risk of injuries. Flexibility may decrease as you age, causing your body to be more stiff and less mobile. Incorporating stretching into your daily life can counteract this process and maintain your flexibility.

Stretching is important for exercise because it provides blood flow to your muscles, increases mobility, and prevents your muscles from tiring out quickly. If you are sore from a previous workout, stretching before the next workout can alleviate some of the soreness. It is also important to stretch both sides of the body. For example, if you stretch your right quadriceps, you should also stretch your left quadriceps. Throughout the day, you can also stretch tight neck muscles to relieve tension.

Stretching Examples


  1. Hold the Stretch. Hold stretch for about 20 seconds for best results.
  2. Know Your Limits. The purpose of stretching is to avoid pain, not cause it. When you stretch, you may feel slight discomfort or mild tension as you work out some of the stiffness, but any feeling of pain more intense than that means you have gone too far.
  3. Use Caution with Injuries. Sometimes stretching can help, but sometimes it can make it worse. Go slow if you're stretching an injured area. Generally, waiting 3 days after an injury is recommended. 
  4. Stretching Before and After Exercise. It is just as important to stretch after an exercise as it is to stretch before an exercise. Stretching after an exercise helps release tension and prevents muscles from being too tight. This may also help reduce future soreness.
  5. The Major Muscle Groups. Although you should stretch the specific muscle groups that you would be using for your exercise, it is still important to stretch the other major muscle groups. All of your major muscle groups play a part in every exercise, and some are used more intensely than others.
  6. Be Aware of Your Posture. Bad posture and incorrect techniques while stretching can cause imbalances in the muscles and can lead to injury.
  7. Breathing and Stretching. Many people make the mistake of unconsciously holding their breath during a strenuous activity, thereby causing unwanted tension in the muscle. Breathing slowly and easily helps relax muscles and therefore makes stretching easier and more beneficial. Exhale while moving into a stretch and inhale while returning to your original position.