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Effects of static stretching on neural properties of the human soleus muscle

Fig. 1: Positioning of the magnetic butterfly coil for TMS at the motor cortex.

Athletes usually accomplish a warm-up program prior to each training session or competition. The expected effects of this procedure are to achieve optimum performance by preparing the athletes physically and mentally, in addition to minimizing the risk of injury of muscles, tendons and joints at following strenuous activities (Alter, 1998; Walker, 2007; Young & Behm, 2002). Although there are various types and methods of stretching static stretching (primarily passive) is still the most popular method (Young & Behm, 2002). But, “contrary to the typical belief that static stretching improves physical activity, there have been numerous studies that demonstrate that traditional static stretching actually has the reverse effect” (Kovacs, 2010, p. 14).

We therefore studied the cortico-spinal excitability after a static passive stretching programme of the human soleus muscle. Different methods, for example the transcranial magnetic stimulation technique (TMS), were used to give a theoretical interpretation for the phenomenon of decreasing performance following static stretching.