Background and purpose: To date, there are no reports comparing duration of static stretch in humans on joint range of motion (ROM) and hamstring muscle flexibility. The purpose of this study was to examine the length of time the hamstring muscles should be placed in a sustained stretched position to maximally increase ROM.
Subjects: Fifty-seven subjects (40 men, 17 women), ranging in age from 21 to 37 years and with limited hamstring muscle flexibility (ie, 30 degrees loss of knee extension measured with femur held at 90 degrees of hip flexion), were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Three groups stretched 5 days per week for 15, 30, and 60 seconds, respectively. The fourth group, which served as a control group, did not stretch.
Methods: Before and after 6 weeks of stretching, flexibility of the hamstring muscles was determined by measuring knee extension ROM with the femur maintained in 90 degrees of hip flexion. Data were analyzed with a 4 x 2 analysis of variance (group x test) for repeated measures on one variable.
Results: The data analysis revealed a significant group x test interaction, indicating that the change in flexibility was dependent on the duration of stretching. Further post hoc analysis revealed that 30 and 60 seconds of stretching were more effective at increasing flexibility of the hamstring muscles (as determined by increased ROM of knee extension) than stretching for 15 seconds or no stretching. In addition, no significant difference existed between stretching for 30 seconds and for 1 minute, indicating that 30 seconds of stretching the hamstring muscles was as effective as the longer duration of 1 minute.
Conclusion and discussion: The results of this study suggest that a duration of 30 seconds is an effective time of stretching for enhancing the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Given the information that no increase in flexibility of the hamstring muscles occurred by increasing the duration of stretching from 30 to 60 seconds, the use of the longer duration of stretching for an acute effect must be questioned.