THE EFFECT OF PRE-PERFORMANCE STRETCHING SEEMS TO BE RELATED TO THE TYPE OF EXERCISE PERFORMED

Neese, M., & Malachy, P. (2006). The effect of static stretching on strength loss and pain following eccentric exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 2176.

Men (N = 8) performed six sets of 10 unilateral isokinetic eccentric hamstring contractions (target force 100% of isometric maximum voluntary contraction) on the dominant and non-dominant legs. Six 60-second static hamstring stretches were performed before eccentric exercise on one leg but not the other. Isometric hamstring strength was measured before eccentric exercise and stretching, immediately post-exercise, and on each of the following three days. Isometric strength was measured at 27, 40, 53, 66, and 79 of knee flexion. Hamstring pain was documented each day on a 0-10 scale (0 = no discomfort, 10 = walking with a limp).

Consistent with previous reports, strength loss was greater at short versus long muscle lengths. However, this pattern differed between the control and stretched leg. At the longest muscle length (27), strength was significantly depressed in the control leg on the three days following eccentric exercise (72-82% of baseline) but remained above baseline (102-127%) in the stretched leg on all three days. Pain peaked two days following eccentric exercise with no difference between the stretched and control legs.

Implication. Stretching before eccentric exercise appears to prevent subsequent strength loss at long muscle lengths but did not at short muscle lengths or the pain response. In practical terms, this means that the strength of actions that require little bending at the joints are not affected as much as joints that have to bend a lot. For example, swimming crawl stroke arm actions that require as much as 90 of bend would lose more strength than the kicking action of the leg which involves on a minor range of movement.

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