European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 9, pp 1943–1949 | Cite as

Unilateral hamstrings static stretching can impair the affected and contralateral knee extension force but improve unilateral drop jump height

  • Sarah L. Caldwell
  • Reagan L. S. Bilodeau
  • Megan J. Cox
  • Dakota Peddle
  • Tyler Cavanaugh
  • James D. Young
  • David G. BehmEmail author
Original Article



Prolonged static stretching (SS) in isolation (no dynamic warm-up) can impair muscle performance. There are conflicting reports whether impairments are present in antagonist and contralateral muscles. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of unilateral hamstrings SS on ipsilateral stretched and contralateral limbs’ strength and jump power.


The SS (four repetitions of 30-s) and control sessions involved unilateral testing of the stretched leg and contralateral leg for knee extension (KE) maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) force and electromyography (EMG), drop jump (DJ) height and contact time at 1-min post-stretching.


There were significant KE MVIC force impairments for both the SS (p = 0.006, d = 0.3, − 8.1%) and contralateral (p = 0.02, d = 0.20, − 4.2%) leg. With normalized data, there was a near-significant (p = 0.1), small magnitude (d = 0.29), greater force impairment with the ipsilateral (93.0 ± 12.8% of pre-test) versus the contralateral (96.2 ± 9.1% of pre-test) KE MVIC force. DJ height significantly improved for the stretched leg (p = 0.03, d = 0.18, + 9.2%) with near-significant, improvements for the contralateral leg (p = 0.06, d = 0.22, + 12.1%). For the stretched leg, DJ contact time was significantly (p = 0.04, d = 0.18, + 3.4%) prolonged, but there was no significant change with the contralateral leg.


Unilateral hamstrings SS induced strength deficits in the ipsilateral and contralateral knee extension MVIC and a prolongation of the stretched leg DJ contact period. In anticipation of maximal force outputs, prolonged SS in isolation (no dynamic warm-up included) can have negative consequences on antagonist and contralateral muscle performance.


Flexibility Strength Power Range of motion Crossover 





Maximal voluntary isometric contraction


Physical Activity Participation Questionnaire


Root mean square


Range of motion


Revolutions per minute


Static stretching


Author contribution

Data collection, analysis, interpretation and review of manuscript: SLC, RLSB, MJC, DP, TC, JDY. Supervisor, statistical analysis, interpretation, write the original version of the manuscript: DB.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest with the contents of this.


  1. Amann M (2012) Significance of group III and IV muscle afferents for the endurance exercising human. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 39(9):831–835. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Amann M, Venturelli M, Ives SJ, McDaniel J, Layec G, Rossman MJ, Richardson RS (2013) Peripheral fatigue limits endurance exercise via a sensory feedback-mediated reduction in spinal motoneuronal output. J Appl Physiol (1985) 115(3):355–364. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andreacci JL, Cohen SL, Urbansky EA, Chelland SA, Von Duvillard SP (2002) The effects of frequency of encouragement on performance during maximal exercise testing. J Sport Sci 20:345–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baumer T, Munchau A, Weiller C, Liepert J (2002) Fatigue suppresses ipsilateral intracortical facilitation. Exp Brain Res Experimentelle Hirnforschung Experimentation cerebrale 146(4):467–473. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Behm DG (2018) The science and physiology of flexibility and stretching: implications and applications in sport performance and health. Routledge Publishers, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Behm DG, Chaouachi A (2011) A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 111(11):2633–2651. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Behm DG, St-Pierre DM (1997) The muscle activation-force relationship is unaffected by ischaemic recovery. Can J Appl Physiol 22(5):468–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Behm DG, Button DC, Butt JC (2001) Factors affecting force loss with prolonged stretching. Can J Appl Physiol 26(3):261–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Behm DG, Bambury A, Cahill F, Power K (2004) Effect of acute static stretching on force, balance, reaction time, and movement time. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36(8):1397–1402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Behm DG, Peach A, Maddigan M, Aboodarda SJ, DiSanto MC, Button DC, Maffiuletti NA (2013) Massage and stretching reduce spinal reflex excitability without affecting twitch contractile properties. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 23(5):1215–1221. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Behm DG, Blazevich AJ, Kay AD, McHugh M (2016) Acute effects of muscle stretching on physical performance, range of motion, and injury incidence in healthy active individuals: a systematic review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 41(1):1–11. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Behm DG, Cavanaugh T, Quigley P, Reid JC, Nardi PS, Marchetti PH (2016) Acute bouts of upper and lower body static and dynamic stretching increase non-local joint range of motion. Eur J Appl Physiol 116(1):241–249. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Behm DGL, O’Leary JJ, Rayner MCP, Burton EA, Lavers L (2019) Acute effects of unilateral self-administered static stretching on contralateral limb performance. J Perform Health Res 3(1):1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carroll TJ, Herbert RD, Munn J, Lee M, Gandevia SC (2006) Contralateral effects of unilateral strength training: evidence and possible mechanisms. J Appl Physiol 101(5):1514–1522. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Chaouachi A, Padulo J, Kasmi S, Othmen AB, Chatra M, Behm DG (2017) Unilateral static and dynamic hamstrings stretching increases contralateral hip flexion range of motion. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging 37(1):23–29. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Crone C, Nielson J (1989) Spinal mechanisms in man contributing to reciprocal inhibition during voluntary dorsiflexion of the foot. J Physiol (Lond) 116:255–272CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. da Silva JJ, Behm DG, Gomes WA, Silva FH, Soares EG, Serpa EP, Vilela Junior Gde B, Lopes CR, Marchetti PH (2015) Unilateral plantar flexors static-stretching effects on ipsilateral and contralateral jump measures. J Sports Sci Med 14(2):315–321PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Delwaide PJ, Toulouse P, Crenna P (1981) Hypothetical role of long-loop reflex pathways. Appl Neurophysiol 44(1–3):171–176PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Dintiman G, Ward B (2003) Sport speed. Human Kinetics, Windsor ONGoogle Scholar
  20. Gandevia SC (2001) Spinal and supraspinal actors in human muscle fatigue. Physiol Rev 81(4):1725–1789CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Halperin I, Chapman DW, Behm DG (2015) Non-local muscle fatigue: effects and possible mechanisms. Eur J Appl Physiol 115(10):2031–2048. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Kay AD, Blazevich AJ (2012) Effect of acute static stretch on maximal muscle performance: a systematic review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 44(1):154–164. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Lima BN, Lucareli PR, Gomes WA, Silva JJ, Bley AS, Hartigan EH, Marchetti PH (2014) The acute effects of unilateral ankle plantar flexors static- stretching on postural sway and gastrocnemius muscle activity during single-leg balance tasks. J Sports Sci Med 13(3):564–570PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Marchetti PHR, Gomes WA, da Silva WA, Soares EG, de Freitas FS, Behm DG (2017) Static-stretching of the pectoralis major decreases tríceps brachii activation during a maximal isometric bench press. Gazzetta Medica Italiana in pressGoogle Scholar
  25. Marchetti PH, Silva FH, Soares EG, Serpa EP, Nardi PS, Vilela Gde B, Behm DG (2014) Upper limb static-stretching protocol decreases maximal concentric jump performance. J Sports Sci Med 13(4):945–950PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V (2009) Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol 106(3):857–864. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. McBride JM, Deane R, Nimphius S (2007) Effect of stretching on agonist-antagonist muscle activity and muscle force output during single and multiple joint isometric contractions. Scand J Med Sci Sports 17(1):54–60. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Opplert J, Babault N (2018) Acute effects of dynamic stretching on muscle flexibility and performance: an analysis of the current literature. Sports Med 48(2):299–325. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Pageaux B, Marcora SM, Lepers R (2013) Prolonged mental exertion does not alter neuromuscular function of the knee extensors. Med Sci Sports Exerc 45(12):2254–2264. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Pageaux B, Lepers R, Dietz KC, Marcora SM (2014) Response inhibition impairs subsequent self-paced endurance performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 114(5):1095–1105. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Perry J, Bekey GA (1981) EMG-force relationships in skeletal muscle. CRC Crit Rev Biomed Eng 7:1–21Google Scholar
  32. Sandberg JB, Wagner DR, Willardson JM, Smith GA (2012) Acute effects of antagonist stretching on jump height, torque, and electromyography of agonist musculature. J Strength Cond Res 26(5):1249–1256. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Sherrington CS (1910) Flexion-reflex of the limb, crossed extension reflex stepping and standing. JPhysiol 40:28–121Google Scholar
  34. Torres EM, Kraemer WJ, Vingren JL, Volek JS, Hatfield DL, Spiering BA, Ho JY, Fragala MS, Thomas GA, Anderson JM, Hakkinen K, Maresh CM (2008) Effects of stretching on upper body muscular performance. J Strength Cond Res 22(4):1279–1285CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Kinetics and RecreationMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

Personalised recommendations