European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 111, Issue 3, pp 485–495 | Cite as

Passive stretching effects on electromechanical delay and time course of recovery in human skeletal muscle: new insights from an electromyographic and mechanomyographic combined approach

  • Fabio Esposito
  • Eloisa Limonta
  • Emiliano Cè
Original Article


Acute passive stretching has been shown to alter muscle-tendon unit (MTU) stiffness and to reduce peak tetanic force (pF). MTU mechanical properties and electro-mechanical delay (EMD) are closely related. Thus, EMD changes would be expected after stretching. The aim of the study was to assess the stretching-induced changes in both contractile and viscoelastic contributors to EMD. The time course of these changes will be also evaluated. Tetanic stimulations were delivered on the medial gastrocnemius muscle of 16 active males, before and after (every 15 min, for 2 h) passive stretching administration. During contractions, electromyographic (EMG), mechanomyographic (MMG) and force signals were recorded. The delays between EMG and force (Δt EMG-F, which corresponds to EMD), EMG and MMG (Δt EMG-MMG) and MMG and force (Δt MMG-F) signals were calculated, together with pF and EMG conduction velocity (CV). After stretching (i) pF decreased by 31% (P < 0.05) and remained depressed for the entire recovery period, while EMG CV did not change; (ii) Δt EMG-F, Δt EMG-MMG and Δt MMG-F increased significantly from 45.4 ± 3.0 ms, 2.2 ± 0.3 ms and 42.4 ± 3.1 ms to 52.7 ± 3.4 ms, 2.4 ± 0.3 ms and 50.3 ± 3.5 ms, respectively; (iii) Δt EMG-F and Δt MMG-F remained lengthened for the entire recovery period, while Δt EMG-MMG recovered to its pre-stretching condition within 15 min. These findings suggest that after stretching, the reduction in pF was accompanied by an elongation of the overall EMD. However, stretching had effects of short duration at the contractile level, but more persisting effects on MTU viscoelastic characteristics.


Stretching EMG Mechanomyogram EMD Electrical stimulation Excitation–contraction coupling 



The authors wish to thank all the subjects of this study for their committed participation. The study was funded by a University of Milan grant assigned to Dr. Fabio Esposito (PUR 2007). The experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sport, Nutrition and Health SciencesUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Centre of Sport MedicineDon Gnocchi FoundationMilanItaly

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