A randomized controlled trial for the effect of passive stretching on measures of hamstring extensibility, passive stiffness, strength, and stretch tolerance

J Sci Med Sport. 2011 Nov;14(6):535-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.05.003. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


To measure hamstring extensibility, stiffness, stretch tolerance, and strength following a 4-week passive stretching program. Randomized controlled trial. Twenty-two healthy participants were randomly assigned to either a 4-week stretching program consisting of 4 hamstring and hip stretches performed 5 times per week, or a non-stretching control group. Hamstring extensibility and stiffness were measured before and after training using the instrumented straight leg raise test (iSLR). Stretch tolerance was measured as the pain intensity (visual analog scale; VAS) elicited during the maximal stretch. Hamstring strength was measured using isokinetic dynamometry at 30 and 120° s(-1). Hamstring extensibility increased by 20.9% in the intervention group following 4 weeks of training (p<0.001; d=0.86). Passive stiffness was reduced by 31% in the intervention group (p<0.05; d=-0.89). Stretch tolerance VAS scores were not different between groups at either time point, and no changes were observed following training. There were no changes in hamstring concentric strength measured at 30 and 120° s(-1). Passive stretching increases hamstring extensibility and decreases passive stiffness, with no change in stretch tolerance defined by pain intensity during the stretch. Compared to previous research, the volume of stretching was higher in this study. The volume of prescribed stretching is important for eliciting the strong clinical effect observed in this study.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Young Adult