Passive and active stretching techniques have been shown to increase both chronic and acute range of motion (ROM). Acute ROM improvements can be countered by decreases in muscle performance, primarily after prolonged static stretching (SS) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) techniques when not incorporated into a full warm up procedure. In contrast, ballistic stretching and dynamic stretching techniques typically induce either an increase or no change in muscular force and power. This review explores studies that have investigated stretching responses on ROM, muscle functionality and performance. Collectively, the literature demonstrates that prolonged acute SS and PNF stretching can elicit the greatest changes in flexibility, but without additional dynamic activities (i.e. full warm up) can induce neuromuscular force and power output impairments, while increasing ROM and some sports specific performance. Muscle response to stretching may be determined by the manipulation of confounding variables such as duration, population, volume, test specificity and frequency. An increased dosage of some of these variables during stretching in isolation, augments ROM increases while attenuating muscle force output, except for stretching intensity which may lead to similar responses. Populations with high flexibility may have positive effects from stretching when tested on their sport specific performance, while general population may suffer greater negative effects. Not controlling these variables during stretching protocols may lead to misleading information regarding its effects on muscle performance.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Behm DG, Blazevich AJ, Kay AD, McHugh M. Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nut Metab. 2015;41(1):1–11. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0235.
Behm DG, Chaouachi A. A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011;111(11):2633–51. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-1879-2.
Lima CD, Brown LE, Wong MA, Leyva WD, Pinto RS, Cadore EL, Ruas CV. Acute effects of static vs ballistic stretching on strength and muscular fatigue between ballet dancers and resistance-trained women. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(11):3220–7. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001606.
Samson M, Button DC, Chaouachi A, Behm DG. Effects of dynamic and static stretching within general and activity specific warm-up protocols. J Sports Sci Med. 2012;11(2):279–85.
Page P. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(1):109.
Thomas E, Bianco A, Paoli A, Palma A. The relation between stretching typology and stretching duration: the effects on range of motion. Int J Sports Med. 2018;39(4):243–54. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0044-101146.
Kay AD, Blazevich AJ. Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012;44(1):154–64. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318225cb27.
Fletcher IM. The effect of different dynamic stretch velocities on jump performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(3):491–8. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-010-1386-x.
Opplert J, Babault N. Acute effects of dynamic stretching on muscle flexibility and performance: an analysis of the current literature. Sports Med. 2017;48(2):299–325. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9.
Mutungi G, Ranatunga KW. Temperature-dependent changes in the viscoelasticity of intact resting mammalian (rat) fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibres. J Physiol. 1998;508:253–65.
Fletcher IM, Jones B. The effect of different warm-up stretch protocols on 20 m sprint performance in trained rugby union players. J Strength Cond Res. 2004;18(4):885–8. https://doi.org/10.1519/14493.1.
Aguilar AJ, DiStefano LJ, Brown CN, Herman DC, Guskiewicz KM, Padua DA. A dynamic warm-up model increases quadriceps strength and hamstring flexibility. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(4):1130–41. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822e58b6.
Chatzopoulos D, Galazoulas C, Patikas D, Kotzamanidis C. Acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on balance, agility, reaction time and movement time. J Sports Sci Med. 2014;13(2):403.
Behm DG, Peach A, Maddigan M, Aboodarda SJ, DiSanto MC, Button DC, Maffiuletti NA. Massage and stretching reduce spinal reflex excitability without affecting twitch contractile properties. J Electromyo Kinesiol. 2013;23(5):1215–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jelekin.2013.05.002.
Trajano GS, Nosaka K, Blazevich AJ. Neurophysiological mechanisms underpinning stretch-induced force loss. Sports Med. 2017;47(8):1531–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0682-6.
Trajano GS, Seitz LB, Nosaka K, Blazevich AJ. Can passive stretch inhibit motoneuron facilitation in the human plantar flexors? J Appl Physiol. 2014;117(12):1486–92. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00809.2014.
Guissard N, Duchateau J. Neural aspects of muscle stretching. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2006;34(4):154–8. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.jes.0000240023.30373.eb.
Cuissard N, Duchateau J, Hainaut K. Muscle stretching and motoneuron excitability. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1988;58(1–2):47–52.
Guissard N, Duchateau J, Hainaut K. Mechanisms of decreased motoneurone excitation during passive muscle stretching. Exp Brain Res. 2001;137(2):163–9.
Power K, Behm D, Cahill F, Carroll M, Young W. An acute bout of static stretching: effects on force and jumping performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(8):1389–96. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.MSS.0000135775.51937.53.
Haddad M, Dridi A, Chtara M, Chaouachi A, Wong del P, Behm D, Chamari K. Static stretching can impair explosive performance for at least 24 h. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(1):140–6. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182964836.
Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler M. The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther. 1997;77(10):1090–6. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/77.10.1090.
Weppler CH, Magnusson SP. Increasing muscle extensibility: a matter of increasing length or modifying sensation? Phys Ther. 2010;90(3):438–49. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20090012.
Magnusson S, Simonsen EB, Aagaard P, Boesen J, Johannsen F, Kjaer M. Determinants of musculoskeletal flexibility: viscoelastic properties, cross-sectional area, EMG and stretch tolerance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 1997;7(4):195–202. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.1997.tb00139.x.
Magnusson SP, Simonsen E, Aagaard P, Sørensen H, Kjaer M. A mechanism for altered flexibility in human skeletal muscle. J Physiol. 1996;497(1):291–8.
Freitas SR, Mendes B, Le Sant G, Andrade RJ, Nordez A, Milanovic Z. Can chronic stretching change the muscle-tendon mechanical properties? A review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2017;28(3):794–806. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.12957.
Ryan ED, Beck TW, Herda TJ, Hull HR, Hartman MJ, Costa PB, Defreitas JM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. The time course of musculotendinous stiffness responses following different durations of passive stretching. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008;38(10):632–9. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2008.2843.
Hoge KM, Ryan ED, Costa PB, Herda TJ, Walter AA, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Gender differences in musculotendinous stiffness and range of motion after an acute bout of stretching. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(10):2618–26. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e73974.
Morrin N, Redding E. Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. J Dance Med Sci. 2013;17(1):34–40. https://doi.org/10.12678/1089-313X.17.1.34.
Freitas SR, Vilarinho D, Vaz JR, Bruno PM, Costa PB, Mil-homens P. Responses to static stretching are dependent on stretch intensity and duration. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2015;35(6):478–84. https://doi.org/10.1111/cpf.12186.
Behm DG, Blazevich AJ, Kay AD, McHugh M. Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(1):1–11. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2015-0235.
Yıldırım M, Ozyurek S, Tosun O, Uzer S, Gelecek N. Comparison of effects of static, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and Mulligan stretching on hip flexion range of motion: a randomized controlled trial. Biol Sport. 2016;33(1):89. https://doi.org/10.5604/20831862.1194126.
Funk DC, Swank AM, Mikla BM, Fagan TA, Farr BK. Impact of prior exercise on hamstring flexibility: a comparison of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation and static stretching. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(3):489–92.
Hindle K, Whitcomb T, Briggs W, Hong J. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF): its mechanisms and effects on range of motion and muscular function. J Hum Kinet. 2012;31:105–13. https://doi.org/10.2478/v10078-012-0011-y.
Bacurau RF, Monteiro GA, Ugrinowitsch C, Tricoli V, Cabral LF, Aoki MS. Acute effect of a ballistic and a static stretching exercise bout on flexibility and maximal strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(1):304–8. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181874d55.
Barroso R, Tricoli V, Santos Gil SD, Ugrinowitsch C, Roschel H. Maximal strength, number of repetitions, and total volume are differently affected by static-, ballistic-, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(9):2432–7. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823f2b4d.
Chow TP, Ng GY. Active, passive and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching are comparable in improving the knee flexion range in people with total knee replacement: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehab. 2010;24(10):911–8. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269215510367992.
Winters MV, Blake CG, Trost JS, Marcello-Brinker TB, Lowe LM, Garber MB, Wainner RS. Passive versus active stretching of hip flexor muscles in subjects with limited hip extension: a randomized clinical trial. Phys Ther. 2004;84(9):800–7.
Wyon M, Felton L, Galloway S. A comparison of two stretching modalities on lower-limb range of motion measurements in recreational dancers. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(7):2144–8. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b3e198.
Wyon M. Stretching for dance. International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. 2010. https://www.iadms.org
Pope RP, Herbert RD, Kirwan JD, Graham BJ. A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(2):271–7.
Costa PB, Ryan ED, Herda TJ, Walter AA, Defreitas JM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Acute effects of static stretching on peak torque and the hamstrings-to-quadriceps conventional and functional ratios. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013;23(1):38–45. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2011.01348.x.
Bradley PS, Olsen PD, Portas MD. The effect of static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on vertical jump performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21(1):223.
Marek SM, Cramer JT, Fincher AL, Massey LL, Dangelmaier SM, Purkayastha S, Fitz KA, Culbertson JY. Acute effects of static and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on muscle strength and power output. J Athl Train. 2005;40(2):94.
Miyahara Y, Naito H, Ogura Y, Katamoto S, Aoki J. Effects of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching and static stretching on maximal voluntary contraction. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(1):195–201. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182510856.
Curry BS, Chengkalath D, Crouch GJ, Romance M, Manns PJ. Acute effects of dynamic stretching, static stretching, and light aerobic activity on muscular performance in women. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(6):1811–9. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181b73c2b.
Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler M. The effect of static stretch and dynamic range of motion training on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1998;27(4):295–300. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.1922.214.171.1245.
Unick J, Kieffer HS, Cheesman W, Feeney A. The acute effects of static and ballistic stretching on vertical jump performance in trained women. J Strength Cond Res. 2005;19(1):206–12. https://doi.org/10.1519/R-14843.1.
Herda TJ, Costa PB, Walter AA, Ryan ED, Hoge KM, Kerksick CM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Effects of two modes of static stretching on muscle strength and stiffness. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(9):1777–84. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318215cda9.
Wallmann HW, Christensen SD, Perry C, Hoover DL. The acute effects of various types of stretching static, dynamic, ballistic, and no stretch of the iliopsoas on 40-yard sprint times in recreational runners. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(5):540–7.
Shrier I. Does stretching improve performance?: a systematic and critical review of the literature. Clin J Sport Med. 2004;14(5):267–73.
Worrell TW, Smith TL, Winegardner J. Effect of hamstring stretching on hamstring muscle performance. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1994;20(3):154–9. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.19126.96.36.199.
Donti Ο, Papia K, Toubekis A, Donti A, Sands WA, Bogdanis GC. Flexibility training in preadolescent female athletes: acute and long-term effects of intermittent and continuous static stretching. J Sports Sci. 2017;36:1–8.
Murphy JR, Di Santo MC, Alkanani T, Behm DG. Aerobic activity before and following short-duration static stretching improves range of motion and performance vs. a traditional warm-up. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2010;35(5):679–90. https://doi.org/10.1139/H10-062.
Blazevich AJ, Gill ND, Kvorning T, Kay AD, Goh AG, Hilton B, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. No effect of muscle stretching within a full, dynamic warm-up on athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018;50(6):1258–66. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001539.
Reid JC, Greene R, Young JD, Hodgson DD, Blazevich AJ, Behm DG. The effects of different durations of static stretching within a comprehensive warm-up on voluntary and evoked contractile properties. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2018;118(7):1427–45. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-018-3874-3.
Janes WI, Snow BB, Watkins CE, Noseworthy EA, Reid JC, Behm DG. Effect of participants’ static stretching knowledge or deception on the responses to prolonged stretching. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016;41(10):1052–6. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2016-0241.
Critchfield B. Stretching for dancers. International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. 2012. http://www.dancescience.org. Accessed Nov 2012.
Letawsky NR, Schneider RG, Pedersen PM, Palmer CJ. Factors influencing the college selection process of student-athletes: are their factors similar to non-athletes. J Coll Stu. 2003;37(4):604–11.
Miletić Đ, Katić R, Maleš B. Some anthropologic factors of performance in rhythmic gymnastics novices. Coll Antropol. 2004;28(2):727–37.
Di Cagno A, Baldari C, Battaglia C, Monteiro MD, Pappalardo A, Piazza M, Guidetti L. Factors influencing performance of competitive and amateur rhythmic gymnastics—gender differences. J Sci Med Sport. 2009;12(3):411–6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2008.01.006.
Behm D, Sale D. Velocity specificity of resistance training. Sports Med. 1993;15(6):374–88. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199315060-00003.
Behm DG, Young JD, Whitten JHD, Reid JC, Quigley PJ, Low J, Li Y, Lima CD, Hodgson DD, Chaouachi A, Prieske O, Granacher U. Effectiveness of traditional strength vs. power training on muscle strength, power and speed with youth: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Front Physiol. 2017;8:423. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00423.
Allison SJ, Bailey DM, Folland JP. Prolonged static stretching does not influence running economy despite changes in neuromuscular function. J Sports Sci. 2008;26(14):1489–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640410802392715.
Babault N, Bazine W, Deley G, Paizis C, Lattier G. Direct relation of acute effects of static stretching on isokinetic torque production with initial flexibility level. Int J Sport Physiol Perform. 2015;10(1):117–9. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2013-0555.
Aagaard P. Training-induced changes in neural function. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2003;31(2):61–7.
Behm DG, Bradbury EE, Haynes AT, Hodder JN, Leonard AM, Paddock NR. Flexibility is not related to stretch-induced deficits in force or power. J Sports Sci Med. 2006;5(1):33.
Marshall PW, Siegler JC. Lower hamstring extensibility in men compared to women is explained by differences in stretch tolerance. BMC Musculoskel Dis. 2014;15(1):223. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-15-223.
Ciprani DJ. Effect of stretch frequency and sex on the rate of gain and rate of loss in muscle flexibility during a hamstring-stretching program: a randomized single-blind longitudinal study. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(8):2119–29. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823b862a.
Roberts JM, Wilson K. Effect of stretching duration on active and passive range of motion in the lower extremity. Br J Sports Med. 1999;33(4):259–63. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.33.4.259.
Ogura Y, Miyahara Y, Naito H, Katamoto S, Aoki J. Duration of static stretching influences muscle force production in hamstring muscles. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21(3):788–92. https://doi.org/10.1519/R-18785.1.
Apostolopoulos N, Metsios GS, Flouris AD, Koutedakis Y, Wyon MA. The relevance of stretch intensity and position—a systematic review. Front Physiol. 2015;18(6):1128. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01128.
Freitas S, Vaz J, Bruno P, Andrade R, Mil-Homens P. Stretching effects: high-intensity and moderate-duration vs. low-intensity & long-duration. Int J Sports Med. 2016;37(03):239–44. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0035-1548946.
Behm DG, Kibele A. Effects of differing intensities of static stretching on jump performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2007;101(5):587–94. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-007-0533-5.
Young W, Elias G, Power J. Effects of static stretching volume and intensity on plantar flexor explosive force production and range of motion. J Sports Med Phys Fit. 2006;46(3):403.
Manoel ME, Harris-Love MO, Danoff JV, Miller TA. Acute effects of static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on muscle power in women. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(5):1528–34. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31817b0433.
Beedle B, Rytter SJ, Healy RC, Ward TR. Pretesting static and dynamic stretching does not affect maximal strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(6):1838–43. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181821bc9.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Lima, C.D., Ruas, C.V., Behm, D.G. et al. Acute Effects of Stretching on Flexibility and Performance: A Narrative Review. J. of SCI. IN SPORT AND EXERCISE 1, 29–37 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42978-019-0011-x
- Passive stretching
- Active stretching
- Range of motion