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Effects of Stretching on Passive Muscle

Tension and Response to Eccentric Exercise


Dain P. LaRoche,* PhD, and Declan A. J. Connolly, PhD, FACSM

From the Department of Environmental and Health Sciences, Johnson State College, Johnson,

Vermont, and the Human Performance Laboratory, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

Background: Stretching is used in an attempt to improve performance and reduce the risk of muscle injury, with little evidence
to support its effectiveness.
Hypothesis: Four weeks of static or ballistic stretching can attenuate the increased soreness and decreased flexibility seen after
eccentric exercise.
Study Design: Controlled laboratory study.
Methods: Twenty-nine male subjects were randomly assigned to a static stretching, ballistic stretching, or control group. On
each of 4 consecutive days, they completed 4 maximal range of motion stretches using a Cybex isokinetic dynamometer to pas-
sively stretch the hamstrings at 0.087 rad s1 (5 deg s1). Stiffness from 0.87 to 1.48 rad (50-85), peak range of motion, work
absorption, peak resistive torque, and soreness were measured. Participants then completed 4 weeks of either static or ballistic
stretching for a total stretching duration of 3600 seconds. After training, the 4 days of testing were repeated with an eccentric
exercise task added after day 1.
Results: Stretching groups had an increase in range of motion and stretch tolerance after 4 weeks of stretching, with no change
in muscle stiffness, work absorption, or delayed onset muscle soreness. After eccentric exercise, they also had greater range of
motion and stretch tolerance than did controls.
Conclusion: Both static stretching and ballistic stretching increase range of motion, most likely as a result of enhanced stretch
tolerance rather than changes in muscle elasticity. Four weeks of stretching maintain range of motion and stretch tolerance in
the days after eccentric exercise.
Keywords: flexibility; stiffness; soreness; ballistic; static

Stretching is common in athletic populations in an attempt stretching process and explain little about how the muscle
to improve muscle flexibility, reduce the risk of skeletal accommodates changes in length. In contrast, stiffness and
muscle injury, and improve performance. Although stretch- work absorption are measures of the amount of resistive
ing is widely accepted by coaches, athletes, and recreation- force the muscle exerts as it is stretched and can provide
alists, there is little evidence to support the relationship information about the nature of muscle compliance. The
between muscle stretching and a reduction in injury risk.5 stiffness and work-absorbing capacity of a muscle during
Furthermore, how the muscle changes to elicit improve- passive stretching can be determined by monitoring the
ments in range of motion (ROM) is not clear. change in muscle length and the concurrent change in resis-
There are a number of measures that can be used to assess tive force. The ability to measure these elastic properties of
flexibility and monitor the effectiveness of stretching pro- muscle in vivo is a useful tool in the attempt to quantify the
grams. Peak ROM is defined as the highest angle achieved response of passively stretched skeletal muscle.10
during the passive stretching process, and peak passive Most data indicate that static stretching increases a
torque is the highest torque achieved and is an indicator of persons stretch tolerance but does not affect the long-
stretch tolerance. These measures are the end product of the term passive properties of the muscle.3,7,12 Magnusson et al12
reported that the 30% reduction in resistance to stretch after
*Address correspondence to Dain P. LaRoche, PhD, Department of an acute bout of static stretching disappeared 1 hour after
Environmental and Health Sciences, Johnson State College, 337 College stretching. These data suggest that acute changes in mus-
Hill, Johnson, VT 05656 (e-mail: laroched@jsc.vsc.edu). cle stiffness and work absorption are transient.
No potential conflict of interest declared. Eccentric exercise involves active lengthening of the
The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 34, No. 6
muscle, which leads to disrupted sarcomeres and membrane
DOI: 10.1177/0363546505284238 damage in the muscle if force levels are high enough.18
2006 American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine A single bout of eccentric exercise and the associated delayed

1000
Vol. 34, No. 6, 2006 Effects of Stretching on Passive Muscle Tension 1001

TABLE 1
Participant Descriptive Characteristics by Group at Beginning of Studya

Total (N = 29) Control (n = 10) Static (n = 9) Ballistic (n = 10) F P

Age, y 31.6 15.2 35.1 17.4 31.0 16.4 28.2 11.9 0.47 .62
Mass, kg 81.1 15.0 80.1 10.1 77.0 9.2 86.3 22.5 0.90 .42
Height, m 1.76 0.06 1.76 0.07 1.78 0.18 1.77 0.08 0.14 .86
Minutes of stretching week1 17.5 23.7 17.7 26.5 16.3 15.7 18.5 29.4 0.04 .96
Initial range of motion, rad 1.71 0.19 1.77 0.22 1.69 0.16 1.66 0.17 1.08 .36
Initial peak torque, Nm 117.0 36.6 131.1 41.9 113.1 30.3 105.3 34.3 1.42 .26
Initial stiffness, Nm rad1 94.7 27.6 84.4 30.0 97.2 23.1 101.6 29.5 0.79 .46
Initial work absorption, Nm s 423.4 74.9 401.9 2.8 440.4 54.0 428.5 97.1 0.67 .52
a
Data are means SD.

onset muscle soreness (DOMS) have been shown to protect


against muscle damage during future bouts of exercise, even
up to 6 months later, and are known as the repeated bout
effect.2,15,16 Both static stretching and ballistic stretching
induce small amounts of DOMS in a manner similar to mod-
erate eccentric exercise and should therefore provide a pro-
tective effect against future muscle damage.20 In addition,
the speed of ballistic stretching may invoke greater amounts
of eccentric muscle activity that would place greater strain
on the musculotendinous structures in comparison to static
stretching, thereby providing a protective effect against
future bouts of exercise. Therefore, ballistic and static
stretching may elicit differences in the response to eccentric
exercise. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of
4 weeks of stretching on the properties of passively stretched
muscle and to examine whether static or ballistic stretching
reduces the amount of muscle damage observed after a stren-
uous eccentric task designed to induce DOMS.1,6

Figure 1. Passive torque apparatus.


MATERIALS AND METHODS

Twenty-nine male subjects who were able bodied, were


recreationally active, were 18 to 60 years, and had not par-
ticipated in an organized strength training or flexibility The resistance arm was instrumented with a load cell
program in the previous 6 months were randomly assigned (Transducer Techniques, Temecula, Calif) to measure force,
to the control (n = 10), static stretching (n = 9), or ballistic and the axis of the Cybex dynamometer was fit with an
stretching (n = 10) groups. Subjects on average were 31.6 electrogoniometer (Radio Shack, Fort Worth, Tex) to mea-
15.2 years, had a mass of 81.1 15.0 kg, and had a height of sure hip angle. Analog data from the load cell and electro-
1.76 0.06 m. There were no initial differences between goniometer were imported to a personal computer via a
groups for initial ROM, peak passive torque, stiffness, work BIOPAC MP30 data acquisition system (BIOPAC, Goleta,
absorption, or minutes of stretching per week (Table 1). Calif), digitized, processed, and stored on the computers
The project, including its risks and benefits, was explained hard drive using data acquisition software (BIOPAC PRO
to the participants who gave their informed consent. The software). The load cell was calibrated at 0 N (0 kg) and at
research protocol was approved by the University of Vermont 98 N (10 kg) using a 10-kg mass applied inline with grav-
Institutional Review Board. ity and the sensing axis of the load cell. The electrogo-
niometer was calibrated at 0.08 radian (5) from table level
Instrumentation and at 1.57 radian (90) from horizontal. Both force and
hip angle data were sampled at 50 Hz and were smoothed
A custom hamstring resistive torque apparatus was built every 10 samples using a mean averaging technique.
to measure hamstring maximum voluntary torque and
resistance to stretch (Figure 1). It was designed with a Procedures
platform for the subject to lie on in the supine position; an
adjustable resistance arm; straps to secure the ankle, non- All participants completed a familiarization protocol that
test leg, and pelvis; and a Cybex II isokinetic dynamometer. included assessment of peak voluntary torque to determine
1002 LaRoche and Connolly The American Journal of Sports Medicine

4 Weeks
Flexibility Training
Eccentric Exercise

T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6 T7 T8

Passive Resistance Passive Resistance


Soreness Rating
Figure 2. Experimental timeline.

the resistance used during the eccentric exercise task. One


week after the familiarization protocol, participants from
the experimental and control groups returned for assess-
ment of initial ROM, peak passive torque, stiffness, and Figure 3. Eccentric exercise task.
work absorption (Figure 2). After baseline testing, all par-
ticipants were advised not to participate in any organized
lower body weight training or stretching and to avoid stren-
uous activity throughout the duration of the study. The test- point of maximal tolerance. Five repetitions of the test were
ing protocol was repeated during the next 3 days to monitor completed, separated by 45 seconds, and mean scores of the
changes in the properties of passively stretched muscle last 4 trials were used for analysis.
during 4 days of testing. Stiffness was defined as the change in torque (Nm) divided
For the next 4 weeks, the 2 experimental groups met by the change in position (radians) and was expressed as
3 times per week and followed a protocol that included the slope of the torque-position curve.12 Stiffness and work
10 minutes of easy cycle ergometry, followed by investigator- absorption measures were calculated from 0.87 to 1.48 rad
led static or ballistic stretching. Participants assigned to the (50-85) to obtain measures from the middle to the end of
control group were instructed to maintain their normal normal ROM. Work absorption in the muscle was calculated
activities. After the 4 weeks of stretching, peak ROM, peak by integrating the force curve to get the area under the curve
passive torque,stiffness,work absorption,and soreness were from 0.87 to 1.48 rad (50-85). Peak ROM was determined by
reassessed using the same protocol completed during the measuring the highest angle achieved during the stretching
first 4 days. After the first test session was completed, par- protocol, and peak passive torque, calculated as the highest
ticipants performed the eccentric hamstring resistance exer- torque measured, was used as a measure of stretch tolerance.
cise, and all measures were repeated during the next 3 days.
Eccentric Task
Hamstring Passive Resistance to Stretch
To induce DOMS, a hamstring curl weight machine was
To measure the flexibility of participants, the passive resis- used that positioned the participants in a prone position
tance to stretch of the hamstring muscle group was assessed. with the knee axis of rotation located opposite the axis of
This technique has previously been used with a human rotation of the resistance arm (Figure 3). The resistance
model to measure the compliance of skeletal muscle arms ankle pad was placed just superior to the medial
in vivo.3,7,8,12,13,21 The procedure was completed using the malleolus on the posterior aspect of the lower leg. The resis-
resistive torque apparatus described previously and was tive weight was calculated based on 70% of the peak volun-
completed on the left leg. Participants were placed in the tary hamstring torque measured during the familiarization
supine position with the axis of rotation of the resistance arm protocol. The investigators aided the participants by bring-
aligned with the greater trochanter of the femur (Figure 1). ing the resistance arm to a vertical position, after which the
The resistance arm was secured to the lower leg at a distance participants were instructed to lower the weight to horizon-
of 5 cm proximal to the medial malleolus, and the moment tal in 2 seconds. The exercise was performed using 3 sets of
arm length was recorded. The participants knee was braced 15 repetitions with 1 minute between sets. Participants
at approximately 3.0 radian (170) using an adjustable rigid were instructed and observed to ensure that the proper lift-
frame knee brace (Donjoy, Vista, Calif). This bracing was ing technique was used and that a ROM of 1.57 rad (90)
done to limit change in hamstring length as a result of knee was achieved with each repetition of the exercise.
flexion and to limit the knees posterior joint capsules effect
on ROM. The participants torso was secured to the table by Visual Analog Soreness Scale
a nylon strap placed around the pelvis, and the nonexercise
leg was secured to the table in the same manner proximal to To assess perceived muscle soreness, participants were asked
the knee.The hip was flexed at a constant angular velocity of to rate soreness using a visual analog scale as described by
0.087 rad s1 (5 deg s1) from table level to the participants Brown et al2 and McHugh et al.13 Participants were asked
Vol. 34, No. 6, 2006 Effects of Stretching on Passive Muscle Tension 1003

Statistical Methods

Group sizes were estimated by statistical software (Power


and Precision, Biostat, Englewood, NJ) using the variabil-
ity of the measures and expected effect sizes. Data were
normalized by calculating difference scores from baseline
for peak ROM, peak passive torque, stiffness, work absorp-
tion, and soreness. To determine the effects of 4 weeks
of stretching on passive resistance measures, percentage
change scores were calculated from test 1 to test 5. To
determine the effects of 4 weeks of stretching on the
response to eccentric exercise, percentage change scores
were calculated from tests 5 to 6, 5 to 7, and 5 to 8.
Repeated-measures analysis of variance (RMANOVA) was
used to assess time effects and to determine if difference
scores varied by group. Variations in mean difference
scores were compared between groups at each time point
using Tukey post hoc analysis. The normality of the data
was assessed with visual plots of the data and with esti-
mates of skewness and kurtosis. Levene statistic was cal-
culated to test the homogeneity of variance assumption.
The rejection criterion for all tests was set at P .05 and
was not adjusted for the multiple RMANOVAs performed
so that statistical power could be maintained in this small
Figure 4. Stretching technique. exploratory study.

RESULTS

Before the stretching program, there were no differences


between groups for the initial measures of flexibility or
to rate their soreness by making a vertical line on an analog
previous stretching experience (Table 1). After 4 weeks of
scale of 0 to 100 mm, with 0 mm being no soreness and
stretching, RMANOVA indicated that differences between
100 mm being the worst possible soreness. Participants
groups existed for ROM (P = .01) and passive torque (P = .04),
rated soreness on each test day before the measurement of
with no statistical differences evident for work absorption
passive resistance to stretch. The score was recorded by
(P = .08) and stiffness (P = .28) (Table 2). Range of motion
measuring to the nearest millimeter and was determined
increased in all groups, but the increases were significantly
as the distance from the 0-mm end of the scale to the mark
higher in the static stretching group (9.5% 6.7%, P = .02)
made by the participants.
and ballistic stretching group (9.3% 9.3%, P = .02) when
compared with the control group (1.2% 4.4%). Both the
Stretching static and ballistic stretching groups had an increase in peak
passive torque, with the static stretching group increasing
Stretching of the hamstring muscle group was completed by 30.1% 38.7% (P = .048) and the ballistic group increas-
while participants stood with their feet slightly narrower ing by 25.4% 25.3% (P = .08); however, only the static
than shoulder width and involved flexing at the waist by group was statistically different from controls (0.04%
extending the hands toward the toes (Figure 4). Participants 26.4%). Observed power to detect statistical differences
were instructed to keep their backs straight and to maintain between groups was .67 for ROM, .47 for peak passive
a slight bend in the knees. Static stretching involved slowly torque, .36 for work absorption, and .14 for stiffness.
stretching the muscles until a point of mild discomfort was After 4 weeks of stretching and after test 5, participants
felt, at which time the participant held the stretch in performed an eccentric exercise task as described above.
this position for 30 seconds. Static stretching participants Participants repeated the test protocol on the next 3 days to
were watched carefully to prevent any ballistic movements. monitor the effect of a novel eccentric exercise task on pas-
Ballistic stretching uses the momentum created by repetitive sive resistance to stretch measures. The RMANOVA
bouncing movements to produce muscle stretch. Participants revealed that there was a significant time effect for an
were instructed to move into and out of the stretch each increase in soreness and decreases in ROM and peak torque
second, pushing to a feeling of mild discomfort with each in the days after eccentric exercise (P < .05). Differences
bounce. Each group performed 10 sets of stretching sepa- between groups at 24, 48, or 72 hours after the exercise task
rated by 30 seconds. Stretching was completed 3 times per existed for peak ROM and peak passive torque (P < .05), but
week during 4 weeks for a total stretch duration of 3600 no differences existed for soreness, stiffness, or work
seconds and was consistent for both stretching groups. absorption (Figures 5-9). Post hoc analyses revealed that
1004 LaRoche and Connolly The American Journal of Sports Medicine

TABLE 2
Change in Passive Resistance to Stretch After 4 Weeks of Stretching

Condition (Valid n) Range of Motion, rad Peak Torque, Nm Stiffness, Nm rad1 Work, N s

Control (10)
Prestretching 1.81 0.18 134.7 38.7 86.1 33.3 394.0 76.9
Poststretching 1.83 0.22 135.4 54.1 81.6 31.0 338.6 80.3
Percentage 1.2 4.4 0.04 26.4 2.0 27.8 14.0 11.7
Static (9)
Prestretching 1.67 0.15 118.2 35.1 99.2 30.9 424.1 62.2
Poststretching 1.82 0.13 148.9 51.3 89.0 17.7 388.9 69.6
Percentage 9.5 6.7a 30.1 38.7a 10.3 9.5 8.0 11.8
Ballistic (10)
Prestretching 1.66 0.19 114.0 32.8 102.7 30.0 411.0 81.4
Poststretching 1.83 0.13 135.2 35.7 85.9 18.7 404.0 77.8
Percentage 9.3 9.3a 25.4 25.3 10.0 19.5 0.06 21.7
a
Different from control (P < .05).

40 15

10
Change (millimeters)

30
% Change

5 *

20 0

5
10

10
0 0 24 48 72
0 24 48 72 Hours after eccentric exericise
Hours after eccentric exercise
Control Static Ballistic
Control Static Ballistic
Figure 6. Range of motion after novel eccentric exercise.
Figure 5. Perceived soreness after novel eccentric exercise. *Different from control (P < .05).

there were no significant differences between groups for increase (P = .008). Observed power to detect statistical
change in ROM 24 or 48 hours after exercise, but a signifi- differences between groups during the 3 days after the
cant difference existed 72 hours postexercise (P = .01). eccentric task was .20 for soreness, .64 for ROM, .77 for peak
Seventy-two hours after exercise, the control group had passive torque, .30 for stiffness, and .08 for work absorption.
a 3.9% 6.3% decrease in ROM, and the static stretching
group had an increase of 7.9% 9.3%, which was different
from controls (P = .009). The change in ROM for the ballis- DISCUSSION
tic stretching group was not significantly different from
controls on any of the days after the eccentric task. The purpose of this study was to determine whether 4 weeks
Differences in peak passive torque existed between the con- of stretching could promote changes in the properties of
trol and stretching groups at 48 and 72 hours after exercise; passively stretched muscle and whether it could provide a
48 hours after exercise, the control group had a decrease in protective effect against the muscle impairment seen after
peak torque of 12.1% 12.2%, and at the same time, the eccentric exercise. Acute bouts of stretching have been
static and ballistic stretching groups were significantly shown to decrease stiffness, work absorption, and passive
higher than controls with increases in peak passive torque torque, but the adaptations are short lasting and generally
of 4.3% 12.8% (P = .02) and 2.0% 14.6% (P = .03), respec- subside within an hour.12 Neither acute nor chronic
tively. Seventy-two hours after exercise, the control group stretching has been associated with a reduction in nervous
had a 10.4% 11.5% decrease in passive torque, whereas activation of the muscle. A number of studies have docu-
the static stretching group experienced a 33.5% 50.8% mented no change in EMG after stretching while showing
Vol. 34, No. 6, 2006 Effects of Stretching on Passive Muscle Tension 1005

50
40
* 16
30
% Change

14
20
12
10 10

% Change
0 8
6
10
4
20 2
0 24 48 72 0
Hours after eccentric exercise 2
4
Control Static Ballistic 0 24 48 72
Figure 7. Peak passive torque after novel eccentric exercise. Hours after eccentric exercise
*Different from control (P < .05).
Control Static Ballistic

Figure 9. Work absorption after novel eccentric exercise.


30
25
20
15
% Change

10 significant decreases in stiffness or work absorption after


5 training. Therefore, in the current study, there were no
0
lasting changes in the elastic properties of the hamstring
muscle group that could account for the increased ROM.
5
How exactly improved tolerance to muscle force is achieved
10
is unclear, but the investigators hypothesize that it likely
15
involves changes in peripheral or central nervous system
0 24 48 72
functioning. Specifically, it is possible that the output
Hours after eccentric exercise or central nervous system processing of nociceptors, mus-
Control Static Ballistic cles spindles, or Golgi tendon organs may be attenuated.
Consequently, after stretching, a person may be able to
Figure 8. Stiffness after novel eccentric exercise. exhibit a greater ROM because of nervous system accom-
modation that occurs independently from changes in muscle
tissue properties.
Although not seen in the present study, it is possible that
stretching programs of greater duration (>4 weeks), inten-
improvements in ROM.7,11 Thus, decreased motor neuron sity, and volume could produce changes in the stiffness and
activity does not appear to be a probable mechanism for work-absorption capacity of skeletal muscle. The majority
the improvements in ROM with stretching, as had previ- of research studying the effects of stretching on the mate-
ously been thought. Consequently, it is thought that rial properties of muscle have been 4 to 8 weeks in dura-
improvement in flexibility is due to an increase in ROM tion and therefore may not have been long enough to elicit
as the result of enhanced stretch tolerance without accom- histologic changes.3,7,11 It is quite probable that those who
panying changes in muscle elasticity or neuromuscular have been long-term participants in stretching programs
activity.10 or in activities requiring great amounts of flexibility have
The notion that there are no long-term adaptations in elicited permanent changes in the physical properties of
the elastic properties of skeletal muscle after a moderate- the muscle. In this situation, it would be likely that
duration stretching program is supported by the current changes in the parallel or in-series connective tissue ele-
study. After 4 weeks of stretching, both the static and bal- ments or increases in sarcomere number leading to
listic groups increased ROM significantly, which is compa- increased muscle length would occur. These theories are
rable to the increases shown by others using similar shared by others and supported by animal data.10,18,21
training programs.3,7,12,19 The increase in peak passive When comparing stiffer persons to more flexible persons,
torque indicates that participants were capable of han- there is a leftward shift in the passive torque-position curve
dling higher muscle tensions after 4 weeks of stretching for those who are less flexible.10 This change is also seen with
than they were before and is likely the cause of the aging and may account for some of the between-subject vari-
increased ROM. In addition, the theory that improvements ability seen in this study given the large age range of the par-
in ROM and increases in peak passive torque are a result ticipants (18-60 years). Interestingly, the least flexible
of enhanced stretch tolerance is supported by a lack of persons demonstrate greater stiffness at lower joint angles
1006 LaRoche and Connolly The American Journal of Sports Medicine

and decreased peak passive torque compared with those improvements in these measures across 4 days of the test
who are more flexible. Therefore, more flexible persons protocol.8 This response shows that stretching can attenu-
have reduced submaximal stiffness and work absorption, ate the loss of stretch tolerance seen in the muscle after
increased ROM, and greater stretch tolerance than do their novel eccentric exercise. Because of the lack of differences in
less flexible counterparts.10 So, a decrease in submaximal stiffness and work absorption, these data indicate that
stiffness and work absorption appears to be related to chronic stretching helps preserve the end measures of flex-
increased ROM, but the ability of training to elicit these ibility but does not affect submaximal passive muscle prop-
changes has not been demonstrated longitudinally. Perhaps erties in the days after eccentric exercise. Furthermore, it is
similarities can be drawn between gains in strength over likely that a structured resistance training program would
time and improvements in muscle flexibility. In the first provide a greater protective effect than that seen from
few weeks of a strength training program in untrained stretching.
persons, strength increases occur rapidly in the absence of In the current study, both static stretching and ballistic
muscle hypertrophy up until about 4 weeks of training.14 It stretching were used. Ballistic stretching is generally not
is quite possible that improvements in flexibility follow a advocated, as many believe it is more likely to cause injury,
similar pattern with neurologic adaptations accounting for although this has not been documented. In fact, a study
early gains and histologic adaptations accounting for long- by Smith et al20 indicated that although both static and
term gains. ballistic stretching elicited DOMS, persons participating in
Many persons participate in stretching in the hope of static stretching had significantly more soreness than did
reducing the risk of skeletal muscle strain during exercise. those completing ballistic stretching. No participants in
Although there is some evidence suggesting that those who either the static or ballistic stretching group experienced
are more flexible have a reduced injury risk, there is little any muscle strain other than DOMS, but with only 19
information demonstrating a prophylactic effect of stretch- subjects participating in stretching, this finding should not
ing on injury prevention.4,5,17 McHugh et al13 demonstrated indicate that either stretching technique is without risk.
that inflexible participants experienced increased symp- To attenuate injury risk, the participants in this study
toms of DOMS after eccentric exercise. Specifically, less completed a mandatory warm-up and were closely super-
flexible participants experienced more pain, muscle ten- vised during stretching. The likelihood of recreationalists
derness, strength loss, and serum creatine kinase activity taking such precautions is doubtful and may increase the
than did their more flexible counterparts. Other studies risk of muscle strain. Also, the speed of movement of bal-
have attempted to reduce muscle impairment after eccen- listic stretching increases the tensile forces placed on the
tric exercise through acute bouts of stretching with little muscle and should therefore be used with caution. Given
success.6,9 In the current study, all groups showed an increase the dynamic nature of sport, the improvements seen in
in soreness at 24, 48, and 72 hours after exercise, with sore- ROM and peak passive torque with ballistic stretching,
ness peaking 48 hours after the eccentric task. Although not and the lack of documented injury, the investigators
statistically significant, the control group had a greater believe that ballistic stretching may be efficacious when
increase in soreness than did the stretching groups 1, 2, performed correctly. However, further research is needed to
and 3 days after the muscle-damaging task. The data study the usefulness, safety, and effects of ballistic stretch-
appear to indicate an attenuation of muscle soreness in the ing on skeletal muscle.
stretching groups, which might be statistically significant This study is consistent with the work of others showing
with a greater number of subjects, longer duration of training, that improvements in ROM after a moderate-duration
or a more sensitive indicator of soreness. stretching program are not related to changes in the elastic
Those who participated in 4 weeks of stretching had properties of muscle but are due to enhanced stretch
reduced impairments in ROM and peak passive torque com- tolerance.3,7,12 This study is also important in that it indi-
pared with controls after unaccustomed eccentric exercise. cates a protective effect of stretching on the loss of ROM
After stretching, ROM was significantly higher in the static and stretch tolerance seen after eccentric exercise. This
group than in the control group 3 days after the eccentric finding supports the use of a regular stretching program
exercise task. Although the mean for the ballistic group was by those looking to reduce the muscle impairment nor-
higher than that for the control group on each of the 3 days mally seen after vigorous exercise. Finally, it demonstrated
after eccentric exercise, the differences were not statis- that ballistic stretching appears to elicit similar changes in
tically significant. These data indicate that stretching flexibility to static stretching without apparent negative
may have the ability to mitigate the loss in ROM normally effects.
seen after novel eccentric exercise. In conjunction with an
increased ROM in the stretching groups, peak passive
torque was maintained at significantly higher levels in the ACKNOWLEDGMENT
stretching groups than in the control group. Twenty-four,
48, and 72 hours after exercise, the static and ballistic This publication was made possible by the Vermont
stretching groups were able to maintain and increase peak Genetics Network through National Institutes of Health
resistive torque, whereas the control group experienced a grant number 1 P20 RR16462 from the BRIN Program of
decrease in this measure across the 3 days. The increases in the National Center for Research Resources. The authors
ROM and peak torque seen in the stretching groups after thank Lindsay Bilodeau, Justin Crowe, and Shane Lynch
the exercise task resemble the previously documented for their help with data collection.
Vol. 34, No. 6, 2006 Effects of Stretching on Passive Muscle Tension 1007

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