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Effects of a 4-week static stretch training program on passive stiffness of human gastrocnemius muscle-tendon unit in vivo


Static stretch is commonly used to prevent contracture and to improve joint mobility. However, it is unclear whether the components of the muscle-tendon unit are affected by a static stretch training program. This study investigated the effect of a four-week static stretch training program on the viscoelastic properties of the muscle-tendon unit and muscle. The subjects comprised 18 male participants (mean age 21.4 ± 1.7 years). The range of motion (ROM), passive torque, myotendinous junction (MTJ) displacement and, muscle fascicle length of the gastrocnemius muscle were assessed using both ultrasonography and a dynamometer while the ankle was passively dorsiflexed. After the initial test, the participants were assigned either to a group that stretched for 4 weeks (N = 9) or to a control group (N = 9). The tests were repeated after the static stretch training program. The ROM and MTJ displacement significantly increased, and the passive torque at 30° significantly decreased, in the stretching group after the study period. However, there was no significant increase in muscle fascicle length. These results suggest that a 4-week static stretch training program changes the flexibility of the overall MTU without causing concomitant changes in muscle fascicle length.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Correspondence to Masatoshi Nakamura.

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Communicated by Jean-René Lacour.

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Nakamura, M., Ikezoe, T., Takeno, Y. et al. Effects of a 4-week static stretch training program on passive stiffness of human gastrocnemius muscle-tendon unit in vivo. Eur J Appl Physiol 112, 2749–2755 (2012).

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  • Static stretch
  • Long-term effects
  • Ultrasonography
  • Muscle tendon unit
  • Gastrocnemius