The benefits of preexercise muscle stretching have been recently questioned after reports of significant poststretch reductions in force and power production. However, methodological issues and equivocal findings have prevented a clear consensus being reached. As no detailed systematic review exists, the literature describing responses to acute static muscle stretch was comprehensively examined.Methods
MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, SPORTDiscus, and Zetoc were searched with recursive reference checking. Selection criteria included randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trials and intervention-based trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals examining the effect of an acute static stretch intervention on maximal muscular performance.Results
Searches revealed 4559 possible articles; 106 met the inclusion criteria. Study design was often poor because 30% of studies failed to provide appropriate reliability statistics. Clear evidence exists indicating that short-duration acute static stretch (<30 s) has no detrimental effect (pooled estimate = −1.1%), with overwhelming evidence that stretch durations of 30–45 s also imparted no significant effect (pooled estimate = −1.9%). A sigmoidal dose–response effect was evident between stretch duration and both the likelihood and magnitude of significant decrements, with a significant reduction likely to occur with stretches ≥60 s. This strong evidence for a dose–response effect was independent of performance task, contraction mode, or muscle group. Studies have only examined changes in eccentric strength when the stretch durations were >60 s, with limited evidence for an effect on eccentric strength.Conclusions
The detrimental effects of static stretch are mainly limited to longer durations (≥60 s), which may not be typically used during preexercise routines in clinical, healthy, or athletic populations. Shorter durations of stretch (<60 s) can be performed in a preexercise routine without compromising maximal muscle performance.