What’s This Research About?

This paper looks at the research surrounding stretching and how it fits into a well-rounded physical activity program and/or in a rehabilitation setting.

About The Author


Jenn Pilotti

TITLE: Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation


PUBLICATION: International Journal of Sports and Physical Therapy

DATE: 2012

AUTHORS : Phil Page

Active muscle tension: Thought to reduce joint ROM, it is the result of muscle neuro-reflexive properties, including peripheral motor neuron innervation (caused by alpha motor neurons) and reflexive activation (caused by gamma motor neurons).

Ballistic stretching: Rapid, bouncing motions at end-range.

Contract relax: Contracting a muscle through the spiral-diagonal PNF pattern, followed by stretch.

Contract-relax agonist contract (CRAC): Contraction of muscle through spiral-diagonal PNF pattern, followed by contraction of opposite muscle to stretch targeted muscle.

Dynamic stretching: Moving a limb actively through its full range of motion several times.

Hold relax: Contraction of muscle through the rotational component of the PNF pattern, followed by stretch.

Joint restraints: Reduce joint ROM because of joint geometry and congruence.

Passive muscle tension: Also reduces joint ROM and is caused by structural properties of muscle and surrounding fascia.

Pre-contraction stretching: Contracting the muscle being stretched or its antagonist before moving into the stretch (e.g., PNF)

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): Originally a rehabilitation technique developed over 50 years ago, today’s version of PNF usually involves isometrically contracting a muscle, followed by relaxing the muscle, allowing an increase in range of motion. PNF was initially used in diagonal patterns in order to lengthen the muscle group as much as possible and incorporate the stretch reflex.

Post-isometric relaxation (PIR): Uses a 25% contraction followed by a stretch.

Post-facilitation stretch (PFS): Developed by Dr. Vladmir Janda. Uses a maximal contraction at mid-range with rapid movement to maximal length, followed by 15 second static stretch.

Static stretching: A position is held for a duration of time, causing the sensation of stretch in a specific area. Can be done with or without a partner, actively, or passively.

Stretching: A way to increase joint ROM by increasing the distance between a muscle’s origin and insertion.

Note: Contract relax, hold relax, and CRAC are all performed using a 75-100% maximal contraction, holding for 10 seconds, and then relaxing. Resistance is provided either by a partner or with a strap.

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