I've heard a theory that it is better to stretch muscles while they are (lightly?) engaged. The reason was said to be that muscle engagement will cause the muscles themselves, rather than the tendons, to stretch.

I've not been able to find any information about this online. Does someone have more information which supports or refutes this theory?

  • 4
    You're looking for "active isolated stretching". Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 5:54
  • AIS is closer to ballistic type of stretching, you may also be looking for PNF stretching. Here's a decent Honors thesis on the various types of stretching with their impact on power, injuries, etc. digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/…
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 16:08
  • Growing up as a long distance runner, I always was told that ballistic stretching can cause tearing. Personally, I only stretch when warmed up, but I never engage my muscles. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


Engaging a muscle will increase the stretch on the tendon and decrease the stretch on the muscle. PNF and other techniques alternate between contracting and relaxing a muscle to overcome the "stretch reflex" and allow your tissues to lengthen more.

There can be value to contracting muscles at the "end range" of their range of motion. This is more like going through the full active range of motion on exercises, like all the way down on a push-up. This can help mobility but it isn't stretching. If you are still looking for more info on gently contracting a muscle when it is being stretched look up "end range loading".

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