European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 11–12, pp 2673–2684 | Cite as

Passive muscle stretching impairs rapid force production and neuromuscular function in human plantar flexors

  • Gabriel S. TrajanoEmail author
  • Laurent B. Seitz
  • Kazunori Nosaka
  • Anthony J. Blazevich
Original Article



We examined the effect of muscle stretching on the ability to produce rapid torque and the mechanisms underpinning the changes.


Eighteen men performed three conditions: (1) continuous stretch (1 set of 5 min), (2) intermittent stretch (5 sets of 1 min with 15-s inter-stretch interval), and (3) control. Isometric plantar flexor rate of torque development was measured during explosive maximal voluntary contractions (MVC) in the intervals 0–100 ms (RTDV100) and 0–200 ms (RTDV200), and in electrically evoked 0.5-s tetanic contractions (20 Hz, 20 Hz preceded by a doublet and 80 Hz). The rate of EMG rise, electromechanical delay during MVC (EMDV) and during a single twitch contraction (EMDtwitch) were assessed.


RTDV200 was decreased (P < 0.05) immediately after continuous (− 15%) and intermittent stretch (− 30%) with no differences between protocols. The rate of torque development during tetanic stimulations was reduced (P < 0.05) immediately after continuous (− 8%) and intermittent stretch (− 10%), when averaged across stimulation frequencies. Lateral gastrocnemius rate of EMG rise was reduced after intermittent stretch (− 27%), and changes in triceps surae rate of EMG rise were correlated with changes in RTDV200 after both continuous (r = 0.64) and intermittent stretch (r = 0.65). EMDV increased immediately (31%) and 15 min (17%) after intermittent stretch and was correlated with changes in RTDV200 (r = − 0.56). EMDtwitch increased immediately after continuous (4%), and immediately (5.4%), 15 min (6.3%), and 30 min after (6.4%) intermittent stretch (P < 0.05).


Reductions in the rate of torque development immediately after stretching were associated with both neural and mechanical mechanisms.


Rate of force development Explosive force Flexibility Force transmission 



Analysis of variance


Confidence interval


Electromechanical delay


Electromechanical delay during the electrically evoked twitch


Electromechanical delay during voluntary contraction




Lateral gastrocnemius


Maximal compound action potential amplitude


Maximal voluntary contraction


Persistent inward currents


Rate of electromyogram rise


Rate of force development


Rate of torque development


Involuntary rate of torque development


Voluntary rate of torque development




Variable-frequency train of stimulation


Author contributions

GST and AJB conceived and designed the study. GST and LS conducted the experiments. GST analyzed the data, and drafted the first version of the manuscript. GST, LB, KN, and AJB critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, are declared by the author(s).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Exercise and Nutrition SciencesQueensland University of TechnologyKelvin GroveAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Health and Biomedical InnovationQueensland University of TechnologyKelvin GroveAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, School of Medical and Health SciencesEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia

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