There are many ways to stretch: static, static with pulsing, active release, reciprocal inhibition, and activated isolated stretching (AIS). There are many people who don’t like the old-school static stretching, so let’s look at that last one, which can help give you a small strength increase while you lengthen your muscles!
How does AIS work? Let’s say, for example, that you wanted to stretch your calf. You would sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and a yoga strap, belt, or similar object. The first thing you do is try to move your toes toward your kneecap, making note of how far you can move it. Then you put the yoga strap around the ball of your foot and try again to move your toes toward your kneecap, but this time when you reach the limit of your movement you gently pull on the strap to move your foot just a little bit farther.
You should do that twelve times, and when you’ve finished you would not only have stretched your calf muscle, you would also have strengthened your anterior low leg. Two birds with one stone!
For more information, pick up the book “The Whartons’ Stretch Book” by Jim and Phil Wharton.