Most effective ways of getting more mobility – Anatomy has limits.

At the start of my apprenticeship I’ve been told that the most effective way of stretching is dynamic stretching.

Is it this kind of simple?
Starting to get involved with this big question one can summarize from the current literature what‘s exactly possible to stretch:
  • Muscle
  • Fascia
  • Nerve System
  • Capsule & Ligaments (Wright 1962)
Moreover Wright explored that the influence of tendon on stretching is about 10% while muscle fascia attribute with 42%.
Why should we aim the optimal muscle length?

An optimal muscle length would allow an

  • optimal range extensibility and joint motion
  • optimal tendon length,
  • overlap of contractile tissue filaments,
  • overall muscle thickness

so that the muscle can generate the amount of passive and active tension required during function. But the methods in the current literature seem to vary and depend on intervention duration, volume, intensity (Freitas et al. 2016) and muscle (Ingraham 2008) itself. Most studies are limited in time whereas we actually don’t know when the muscle structure changes. Biomechanical effects of long-term and chronic stretching programs have not been evaluated yet. One can work with different models like

  • viscoelastic deformation – more likely to be transient,
  • Increase in sarcomeres – no overall change in muscle length because increase in sarcomere were offset by a concurrent decrease in sarcomere length,
  • Neuromuscular relaxation – induce ability to relax while stretching
All in all transient effect on muscle in nature (Wepper et al.).

The most practical model for stretching is „The sensory model“. It describes the first sensation of pain within the stretch tolerance. In general muscle extensibility is one dimensional testing of the length and may no accurately represent actual length of the muscle. More precise measurement is the torque/angle curve for a more individual perspective and with more information about the biomechanical properties of the muscle. This leads to the sensory theory:

„sensation is usually a limiting factor rather than passive muscle stiffness (Weppleret al. 2016)“
The failed assumptions are misleading our understanding of what stretching benefits most. With our current data analyses we can’t associate static stretching with a decrease in injuries. Furthermore there is a greater decrease in performance while you stretch more than 60s than less than 60s. Especially acute stretching will decrease the ability to generate a maximal force (McHugh 2010).
Static stretching (–3.7%), Dynamic stretching (+1.3%)  and PNF (–4.4%) (with muscle activation close to a stretch) induced performance changes when testing soon after the stretching (Behm 2016).
Repeat it: Practice doesn’t make perfect but perfect practice makes perfect
Prestretch may be beneficial for injury prevention in sports with sprint running component but not endurance activities
 – think functional!
ROM changes after DS and PNF for max 10 min after stretch (Behm 2016)
– use it or loose it!

Target muscle groups known to be at risk for a particular sport/activity (McHugh 2009). For example hamstrings in football.

– think specific!

Hence, stretching in some form appears to be of greater benefit than cost (in terms of performance, ROM and injury) but the type of stretching chosen and the make-up of the stretch routine, will depend on the context within which it is used.


Baxter C, McNaughtonLR, Sparks A, Norton L, Bentley D. 2017. Impact ofstretchingon theperformanceandinjuryriskoflong-distancerunners. Research in Sports Medicine, 25:1, 78-90.

Freitas SR, Mendes B, SantLG, Andrade RJ, NordezA, Milanovic Z. 2017. Can chronic stretching change the muscle-tendon mechanical properties. ScandinavianJournal ofMedicineandScience in Sports 28(3):794-806.
Ingraham P. 2008. The Unstretchables. Vancouver:; [Accessed 2018 April 26].
McHughMP, Cosgrave CH. 2010. Tostretchornot tostretch: theroleofstretchingin injurypreventionandperformance. ScandJ MedSciSports 20: 169–181.
WepplerCH, MagnussonSP. 2010. IncreasingMuscleExtensibility: A Matter ofIncreasingLengthorModifyingSensation?. PhysTher. 90: 438 – 449.
Wright V, Johns RJ. Relative importanceofvarioustissuesin jointstiffness. 1962. Journal ofApplied Physiology17(5): 824-828.

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