Tight hamstrings are a frequent occurrence for athletes, but what's the best thing to do about it? A study was recently conducted to evaluate the effects of four different weekly stretching protocols on the rate of gain and decline in hamstring flexibility. Researchers also wanted to see if there was a difference between the responses from males and females.

 

Study participants were aged between 18 to 46 years old. During the first 4 weeks of the 8 week period, the subjects participated in a static hamstring stretching program. Stretching was discontinued for the second 4 weeks of the study. Each subject had his/her hip range of motion measured each week.1

 

stretching, dynamic stretching, static stretching, passive stretchingThe participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 stretching protocols or a control group. Each group used the same standing one-legged hamstring stretch. The stretch position was held for a total of 30 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest and a second 30-second stretch. For a total of one minute of stretching. This was done for each leg.2

 

The groups varied in terms of frequency and total time stretching:

 

  • Group one - stretched daily, 2x/day, for 14 minutes total per week.
  • Group two - stretched 1x/day, for a total of 7 minutes per week.
  • Group three - stretched 3-4 days per week, 2x/day, for a total of 6-8 minutes per week.
  • Group four - stretched 3-4 days a week, 1x/day, for a total of 3-4 min per week.
  • Control group - did not perform any stretching.

 

The results of the study revealed there were no significant differences in the rate of grain or loss of hamstring flexibility between the different stretching protocols. All of the stretching groups gained range of motion in the hip when comparing pre-study measurement to measurements taken on week 4. Those who stretched at least 6 times per week gained more than those who stretched 3 times per week - a 24% gain versus a 16.8% gain.3

 

The sex of the subjects did not influence changes in range of motion, and the control group did not see any changes. After the stretching was stopped, the rate of loss was similar for all 4 stretching groups, and every group retained a siginificant portion of their gains at the end of the study.4

 

The thing to learn from this study is that a little stretching can go a long way, as it turns out. Stretching as few as three times per week still resulted in mobility gains. For people pressed for time or for athletes wiht busy training schedules, daily stretching might not actually be necessary. In the end the researchers from this study recommended stretching a total of six times per week, whether it be every day stretching or stretching twice daily on fewer days. And remember, in this study, participants only stretched one minute per leg total each session!

 

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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