Researchers determine how stretching one muscle has effects on several factors once believed to be unrelated, including contralateral implications for flexibility and strength.
Researchers collaborating at several universities recently published a study examining the effect of stretching the calf muscle. It is known that improving flexibility in a muscle can improve its contractile force, as well as reduce the risk of injuring the muscle. This study was unique because it was interested in determining the effect it had on the contralateral muscle, in this case, the calf muscle on the opposite leg.
Over the course of 10 weeks, a group of 13 untrained participants followed a stretching program involving a simple stretch of the right calf. The participants stretched the calf 3 days per week 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, for 4 sets. There was also 12 participants in a control group to compare the results to. Measures were taken at baseline for range of motion and strength in 1RM.
At the end of the 10 weeks, measures were taken of the 1RM and range of motion in both legs, in the experimental and control groups. It was found that the strength in the right calf was significantly improved by 29%, and in the left calf by 11%. Range of motion in the right calf was significantly improved by 8%, and b 1% in the left calf. In the control group, there were no changes in either range or 1RM.
These results show that stretching a muscle has contralateral implications for strength and flexibility. This is in agreement with previous studies on improving strength with stretching in untrained people. The findings can be especially useful to those who are unable to engage in resistance training, such as seniors or those with injuries or physical limitations.
Nelson, AG, Kokkonen, J, Winchester, JB, Kalani, W, Peterson, K, Kenly, MS, Arnall, DA. 2012. "A 10-week stretching program increases muscle strength in the contralateral muscle". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 26(3): 832-836.
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