The aim of the current study was to investigate the influence of chronic stretching on muscle performance (MP) by a systematic review. The search strategy included MEDLINE, PEDro, Cochrane CENTRAL, LILACS, and manual search from inception to June 2016. Randomized and controlled clinical trials, non-randomized, and single group studies that have analyzed the influence of flexibility training (FT) (using any stretching technique) on MP were included. Differently, studies with special populations (children, elderly, and people with any dysfunction/disease), and articles that have used FT protocols shorter than three weeks or 12 sessions were excluded. The MP assessment could have been performed by functional tests (e.g. jump, sprint, stretch-shortening cycle tasks), isometric contractions, and/or isotonic contractions. Twenty-eight studies were included out of 513. Seven studies evaluated MP by stretch-shortening cycle tasks, Ten studies evaluated MP by isometric contractions, and 13 studies assessed MP by isotonic contractions. We were unable to perform a meta-analysis due to the high heterogeneity among the included studies. In an individual study level analysis, we identified that 14 studies found positive effects of chronic stretching on MP. The improvements were observed only in functional tests and isotonic contractions, isometric contractions were not affected by FT. Therefore, FT might have an influence on dynamic MP. However, more studies are necessary to confirm whether FT can positively affect MP.
Keywords: Athletic performance; Flexibility; Muscle strength; Stretch-shortening cycle.
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