A stretching program increases the dynamic passive length and passive resistive properties of the calf muscle-tendon unit of unconditioned younger women
This study examined the effects of a 6-week stretching program on the dynamic passive elastic properties of the calf muscle-tendon unit (MTU) of unconditioned younger women. After random assignment of 12 women (age 18-31 years) to a stretching group (SG) or to a control group (CG), six subjects in the SG and four subjects in the CG completed the study. For the initial tests, a Kin-Com dynamometer moved the ankle from plantarflexion to maximal dorsiflexion (DF) with negligible surface EMG activity in the soleus, gastrocnemius and tibialis anterior muscles. Angular displacement, passive resistive torque, area under the curve (passive elastic energy) and stiffness variables were reduced from the passive DF torque curves. The SG then completed ten static wall stretches held 15 s each, five times a week for 6 weeks, the CG did not. The tests were repeated and the changes between the tests and retests were examined for group differences (Mann-Whitney U). The SG had significant increases in the maximal passive DF angle (7 degrees +/- 4 degrees ), maximal passive DF torque (11.2 +/- 8.3 N m), full stretch range of motion (23 degrees +/- 24 degrees ), full stretch mean torque (3.4 +/- 2.1 N m), and area under the full stretch curve (22.7 +/- 23.5 degrees N m) compared to the CG (P < or = 0.019). The passive stiffness did not change significantly. The results showed that a stretching program for unconditioned calf MTUs increased the maximal DF angle and length extensibility, as well as the passive resistive properties throughout the full stretch range of motion. The adaptations within the calf MTU provide evidence that stretching enhances the dynamic passive length and passive resistive properties in unconditioned younger women.
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