Lack of effect of moderate-duration static stretching on plantar flexor force production and series compliance.
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Exercise and Health Sciences / Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research
Background: The effects of an acute bout of moderate-duration static stretching on plantar flexor force production, series compliance of the muscle–tendon unit, and levels of neuromuscular activation were examined. Methods: Eighteen active individuals (9 men and 9 women) performed four 45-s static plantar flexor stretches and a time-matched control of no stretch (where subjects remained seated in the dynamometer for 4 min with no stretch being performed). Measures of peak isometric moment, rate of force development, neuromuscular activation (interpolated twitch technique and electromyography), twitch force characteristics, passive moment during stretch, and tendon elongation during maximal voluntary contractions were taken before and after the stretching. Findings: Despite a significant stress–relaxation response during stretch (9.3%, P < 0.01) there were no significant differences in peak isometric moment (P = 0.35; effect size 0.13), rate of force development (P = 0.93; effect size 0.01), neuromuscular activation (interpolated twitch: P = 0.86; electromyography: P = 0.09; effect size 0.02), or tendon elongation (P = 0.61; effect size 0.07) after stretching. Twitch characteristics were also unchanged after stretching, although there was a reduction in the rate of twitch torque relaxation (RRt; P < 0.01). Interpretation: The acute bout of moderate-duration static stretching did not impair the force generating capacity of the plantar flexors or negatively affect muscle–tendon mechanical properties. Static stretching may not always have detrimental consequences for force production. Thus, clinicians may be able to apply moderate-duration stretches to patients without risk of reducing muscular performance.