Long-term static stretching can decrease muscle stiffness: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2023 Aug;33(8):1294-1306. doi: 10.1111/sms.14402. Epub 2023 May 25.


Stretch training increases the range of motion of a joint. However, to date, the mechanisms behind such a stretching effect are not well understood. An earlier meta-analysis on several studies reported no changes in the passive properties of a muscle (i.e., muscle stiffness) following long-term stretch training with various types of stretching (static, dynamic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular stretching). However, in recent years, an increasing number of papers have reported the effects of long-term static stretching on muscle stiffness. The purpose of the present study was to examine the long-term (≥2 weeks) effect of static stretching training on muscle stiffness. PubMed, Web of Science, and EBSCO published before December 28, 2022, were searched and 10 papers met the inclusion criteria for meta-analysis. By applying a mixed-effect model, subgroup analyses, which included comparisons of sex (male vs. mixed sex) and type of muscle stiffness assessment (calculated from the muscle-tendon junction vs. shear modulus), were performed. Furthermore, a meta-regression was conducted to examine the effect of total stretching duration on muscle stiffness. The result of the meta-analysis showed a moderate decrease in muscle stiffness after 3-12 weeks of static stretch training compared to a control condition (effect size = -0.749, p < 0.001, I2 = 56.245). Subgroup analyses revealed no significant differences between sex (p = 0.131) and type of muscle stiffness assessment (p = 0.813). Moreover, there was no significant relationship between total stretching duration and muscle stiffness (p = 0.881).

Keywords: chronic effect; muscle-tendon junction; shear modulus; strain ratio; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Elasticity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Stretching Exercises*
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / physiology
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Torque