Mechanical and physical responses to stretching with and without preisometric contraction in human skeletal muscle

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1996 Apr;77(4):373-8. doi: 10.1016/s0003-9993(96)90087-8.


Objective: To examine electromyography (EMG) activity, passive torque, and stretch perception during static stretch and contract-relax stretch.

Design: Two separate randomized crossover protocols: (1) a constant angle protocol on the right side, and (2) a variable angle protocol on the left side.

Subjects: 10 male volunteers.

Intervention: Stretch-induced mechanical response in the hamstring muscles during passive knee extension was measured as knee flexion torque (Nm) while hamstring surface EMG was measured. Final position was determined by extending the knee to an angle that provoked a sensation similar to a stretch maneuver. Constant angle stretch: The knee was extended to 10 degree below final position, held 10sec, then extended to the final position and held for 80 sec. Variable angle stretch: The knee was extended from the starting position to 10 degrees below the final position, held 10sec, then extended to the onset of pain. Subjects produced a 6-sec isometric contraction with the hamstring muscles 10 degrees below the final position in the contract-relax stretch, but not in the static stretch.

Main outcome measures: Passive torque, joint range of motion, velocity, and hamstring EMG were continuously recorded.

Results: Constant angle contract-relax and static stretch did not differ in passive torque or EMG response. In the final position, passive torque declined 18% to 21% in both contract-relax and static stretch (p<.001), while EMG activity was unchanged. In the variable angle protocol, maximal joint angle and corresponding passive torque were significantly greater in contract-relax compared with static stretch(p<.01), while EMG did not differ.

Conclusion: At a constant angle the viscoelastic and EMG response was unaffected by the isometric contraction. The variable angle protocol demonstrated that PNF stretching altered stretch perception.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*