What is Contract/Relax stretching?

by | Nov 7, 2022 | General Stretching

Contract/relax stretching is a simple process that vastly accelerates the acquisition of flexibility. Read about how to perform it in this simple article that includes the 3 step approach, photos, and a bit about the neurological mechanisms involved for the geeks among us!

Before you begin

You need to understand the key scientific methodology behind the StretchFit approach. It called “contract/relax” stretching and sounds complicated, but in practice its simple.

Here’s how it works:

Take yourself VERY SLOWLY into a mild stretch. We call this the POINT OF TENSION, or POT. Moving quickly will trigger the stretch reflex. On a scale of one to ten, one being not much of a stretch and ten being complete agony, we suggest a score of five or six. Hold the position for five breaths and settle.


Contract the muscles that you are trying to stretch. We will give you cues, of course; although it may seem counterintuitive, contract the muscles we recommend for five seconds. Use around 30 % of your maximum effort, and start gently.



Relax totally and restretch to the new position. Don’t expect miracles, but you can expect to be able to go further into the stretch, often between 1 to 10 centimetres further. Hold the new POT for fifteen breaths.

Contract/relax in the roller stretch

Press the foam roller away to the POT. Hold for 5 breaths.


Contract the muscles you are stretching. In this case, it is the hamstrings. Contract for 5 seconds by pressing your feet down into the foam roller. Use 30% of maximum force. The GTO will signal increased tension via a sensory nerve to the spinal cord. A relaxation signal will travel to the muscle, facilitating a restretch.


Relax and re-stretch to the new POT. Hold for 15 deep breaths.


See image above.

Contract/Relax technique in practice. The muscles-hamstrings in the image above- are gently stretched and held in position. They are then contracted isometrically i.e without producing movement. A sensory nerve from the tendon (in white) signals to the spinal chord a change in muscle tension without movement. A reflexive signal is sent back to the muscle via a motor nerve to relax. The stretch length can then be increased.