5 Stretches You Can Do With a Strap or Towel

One way to prevent injuries, such as muscular strains and ligament sprains, is to maintain flexibility in your muscles and joints. Stretching exercises can help keep your muscles moving freely and your joints moving through their full range of motion (ROM). This can ensure that your body functions as it should. Good flexibility can give you a sense of well-being, too.

There are many different ways to stretch a muscle or move your joints through their ROM. One easy way is to use a towel, a stretching strap, a resistance band, or even a belt to help improve flexibility. Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist to ensure that stretching exercises are safe for you to perform.

Woman stretching with a towel

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Each of these towel stretches can be performed two or three times per day and should be held for 20 to 30 seconds.


Hamstring Stretch

The hamstring muscle group runs from your buttocks to just past your knees. Tightness in this muscle group may lead to hamstring strains. Tight hamstrings may also prevent you from taking long strides while walking and may contribute to a tight feeling in your low back.

Using a towel to stretch your hamstrings is a great way to improve flexibility in this muscle group. Lie on your back and place a towel around your foot.

  1. Hold the ends of the towel and use it to lift your leg gently.
  2. Keep your knee straight, and hold the stretched position for 30 seconds.
  3. Repeat the stretch 3 times on each side.

Quadriceps Stretch

The quadriceps muscles run down the front of your thighs from the front of your pelvis. They pass over your kneecap and attach to the front of your shin. This muscle group is responsible for straightening your knee joint.

Tightness in the quadriceps may lead to knee pain or contribute to conditions like patellofemoral stress syndrome (PFSS) or iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBS). To stretch your quads with a towel:

  1. Lie face down and wrap a towel around your ankle.
  2. Pull both ends up, so your knee bends until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then slowly release.
  4. Switch legs.

Calf Stretch

towel calf stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The calf muscles are located in the back of your lower leg and help to flex your foot. They attach at your heel bone as the Achilles tendon.

Tightness in this muscle group can lead to Achilles tendonitis or foot pain, such as plantar fasciitis. By maintaining flexibility in this muscle, you may also prevent muscle strains or cramping in your lower legs. To do the towel calf stretch:

  1. Sit with your leg out in front of you and wrap a towel around your toes and the ball of your foot.
  2. Grab both ends of the towel and pull until you feel a stretch behind your lower leg.
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times on each leg.

Shoulder Rotator Cuff Stretch

The shoulder is a critical joint that has many muscular attachments. Tightness in the rotator cuff muscles or the joint itself can cause shoulder pain. A lack of flexibility in the shoulders can also limit your ability to raise your arms fully overhead and contribute to a rounded shoulder posture.​

  1. Sling a towel over your shoulder and grab the lower end behind your back with one hand.
  2. Pull the towel up, so the hand behind your back moves slowly up with the other hand. You should feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder as you pull.
  3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then slowly release.
  4. Switch sides.

Chest Stretch

towel chest stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The chest muscles, also known as the pectoralis group, attach from your breastbone to each shoulder. They help to squeeze your arms together​ as if giving a big hug.

Tightness in these muscles can cause a rounded shoulder posture, leading to neck, low back, or shoulder pain. Tightness here may also limit your ability to take a deep breath, contributing to breathing difficulties.

Try the towel chest stretch to keep your posture upright and maintain flexibility in your chest muscles.

  1. Hold a towel behind your mid-back and pull each end until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your chest.
  2. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then release.

A Word From Verywell

Stretching with a towel effectively increases flexibility and mobility, especially if these are limited for you. Towels increase your ability to deepen a stretch when you are tight or inflexible. Taking a few minutes each day to stretch with a strap or towel will improve your overall flexibility, which can help you maintain full mobility and range of motion.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Brahms CM, Hortobágyi T, Kressig RW, Granacher U. The interaction between mobility status and exercise specificity in older adults. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. 2021;49(1):15-22.

  3. Behm DG, Blazevich AJ, Kay AD, Mchugh M. Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(1):1-11. doi:10.1139/apnm-2015-0235.

  4. Thigh Flexibility Exercise (Standing). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  5. Masood T, Kalliokoski K, Magnusson S, Bojsen-Moller J, Finni T. Effects of 12-wk eccentric calf muscle training on muscle-tendon glucose uptake and SEMG in patients with chronic Achilles tendon painJ App Physiol. 2014;17(2):105-111. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00113.2014

  6. Garving C, Jakob S, Bauer I, Nadjar R, Brunner UH. Impingement syndrome of the shoulder. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017;114(45):765-776. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2017.0765

  7. Yoo W gyu. Comparison of the effects of pectoralis muscles stretching exercise and scapular retraction strengthening exercise on forward shoulder. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018;30(4):584-585.

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 15 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.