Effect of Acute Static Stretch on Maximal Muscle Performance: A Systematic Review


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2012 - Volume 44 - Issue 1 - p 154–164
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318225cb27
Applied Sciences

Introduction: The benefits of preexercise muscle stretching have been recently questioned after reports of significant poststretch reductions in force and power production. However, methodological issues and equivocal findings have prevented a clear consensus being reached. As no detailed systematic review exists, the literature describing responses to acute static muscle stretch was comprehensively examined.

Methods: MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, SPORTDiscus, and Zetoc were searched with recursive reference checking. Selection criteria included randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials and intervention-based trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals examining the effect of an acute static stretch intervention on maximal muscular performance.

Results: Searches revealed 4559 possible articles; 106 met the inclusion criteria. Study design was often poor because 30% of studies failed to provide appropriate reliability statistics. Clear evidence exists indicating that short-duration acute static stretch (<30 s) has no detrimental effect (pooled estimate = −1.1%), with overwhelming evidence that stretch durations of 30–45 s also imparted no significant effect (pooled estimate = −1.9%). A sigmoidal dose–response effect was evident between stretch duration and both the likelihood and magnitude of significant decrements, with a significant reduction likely to occur with stretches ≥60 s. This strong evidence for a dose–response effect was independent of performance task, contraction mode, or muscle group. Studies have only examined changes in eccentric strength when the stretch durations were >60 s, with limited evidence for an effect on eccentric strength.

Conclusions: The detrimental effects of static stretch are mainly limited to longer durations (≥60 s), which may not be typically used during preexercise routines in clinical, healthy, or athletic populations. Shorter durations of stretch (<60 s) can be performed in a preexercise routine without compromising maximal muscle performance.

1Sport Exercise & Life Sciences, The University of Northampton, Northampton, UNITED KINGDOM; and 2School of Exercise, Biomedical & Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Anthony D. Kay, Ph.D., Sport, Exercise & Life Sciences, The University of Northampton, Boughton Green Road, NN2 7AL, United Kingdom; E-mail: tony.kay@northampton.ac.uk.

Submitted for publication April 2011.

Accepted for publication May 2011.

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©2012The American College of Sports Medicine