Recovery: Flexibility and stretching

Flexibility requirements are individual to each sport with certain sports requiring a greater level of flexibility than others for optimum performance.

Maintaining an adequate range of movement is important for recovery and long-term injury prevention. Muscle length imbalances can translate into a loss of efficiency in movement and can consequently impact on performance.


Self-release is used to restore normal tissue length. A trigger point is a small painful knot in muscle tissue that can refer pain to other areas of the body. It can also affect a muscle by keeping it either tight or weak. Trigger point release:

  • Directly stretches the trigger points in knotted muscle fibres
  • Increases circulation that has been restricted by the contracted tissue
  • This can be achieved through the use of a foam roller, peanut (2 tennis balls taped together) or ball. It can be used before or after exercise


Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching is implemented in the warm-up as it is used to replicate sport in that muscles are required to stretch at fast speeds in various body positions. Dynamic stretching:

  • Improves ‘active’ flexibility through increasing the ability of the muscle fibres to be elastic
  • Stimulates the central nervous system

Static stretching

Static stretching is performed after exercise or separate to exercise. One of the reasons for this is that static stretching may reduce force production, with the loss of voluntary strength and muscular power potentially lasting up to one hour after the static stretch. A static stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds and repeated a maximum 3 times. Static stretching:

  • Targets the muscle to relax
  • Reduces blood flow to muscles
  • Decreases the activity of central nervous system

Partner stretching (PNF – proprioceptiveneuromuscular facilitation)

PNF techniques involve a partner actively stretching the participant by some combination of altering contraction and relaxation of both agonist and antagonist muscles (i.e. quadriceps/
hamstrings). This should be utilised after exercise or separate to exercise.

Key Points

  • Maintaining adequate range of movement is important for recovery and injury prevention
  • Self-release targets trigger points to restore 'normal' tissue length
  • Dynamic stretching is utilised in the warm-up
  • Static stretching is utilised after exercise or separate to exercise

This is an extract from our 2013 Recovery Booklet. Read the entire document, with references and further reading, on the sportscotland institute of sport website

Date published: 28 June 2023
Date updated: 28 June 2023


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