Aim: To evaluate if static stretching influences peak and end-range functional hamstring-to-quadriceps (H/Q) strength ratios in elite women athletes.
Methods: Eleven healthy female athletes in an elite competitive level participated to the study. All the participants fulfilled the static stretching or non-stretching (control) intervention protocol in a randomized design on different days. Two static unassisted stretching exercises, one in standing and one in sitting position, were used to stretch both the hamstring and quadriceps muscles during these protocols. The total time for the static stretching was 6 ± 1 min. The isokinetic peak torque measurements for the hamstring and quadriceps muscles in eccentric and concentric modes and the calculations for the functional H/Q strength ratios at angular velocities of 60°/s and 180°/s were made before (pre) and after (post) the control or stretching intervention. The strength measurements and functional strength ratio calculations were based during the entire- and end-range of knee extension.
Results: The pre-test scores for quadriceps and hamstring peak torque and end range values were not significantly different between the groups (P > 0.05). Subsequently, although the control group did not exhibit significant changes in quadriceps and hamstring muscle strength (P > 0.05), static stretching decreased eccentric and concentric quadriceps muscle strength at both the 60°/s and 180°/s test speeds (P < 0.01). Similarly, static stretching also decreased eccentric and concentric hamstring muscle strength at both the 60°/s and 180°/s test speeds (P < 0.01). On the other hand, when the functional H/Q strength ratios were taken into consideration, the pre-intervention values were not significant different between the groups both during the entire and end range of knee extension (P > 0.05). Furthermore, the functional H/Q strength ratios exhibited no significant alterations during the entire and end ranges of knee extension both in the static stretching or the control intervention (P > 0.05).
Conclusion: According to our results, static stretching routine does not influence functional H/Q ratio. Athletes can confidently perform static stretching during their warm-up routines.
Keywords: Concentric; Eccentric; Elite women athletes; Functional hamstring-to-quadriceps ratio; Muscle strength; Static stretching.