We herein examined whether immediate muscular activity (active recovery) after stretching decreased stretch-induced strength deficits in human muscles. Our within-subject study included 8 subjects who were used as their own controls. For each subject, both legs were subjected to the same warm-up and stretching treatments, and then one leg was exposed to active recovery (experimental treatment) while the other was allowed to recover passively (control). Unilateral maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of knee extensors was measured at baseline, poststretching, and postrecovery to monitor strength evolution. Our results revealed that the MVC strength at the baseline time point for control (590.8 +/- 104.2) and treated (602.2 +/- 112.7) legs decreased poststretching by 8.0 and 8.9%, respectively, and further decreased postrecovery by 1.3 and 1.2%, respectively. Maximal voluntary contraction strength tests demonstrated very good reliability, having intraclass coefficients of correlation ranging from 0.92-0.98. Mixed analysis of variance showed that the stretching program yielded significantly increased flexibility (p < 0.01) and significantly decreased MVC (p < 0.001) in both legs. The over-time variability between legs was marginal (1%), and no significant between-leg differences were observed. Indeed, the improvement in strength restoration due to active vs. passive recovery was -0.5 +/- 15 N, which was significantly lower (p < 0.01; 1-tailed t-test) than the amount of strength inhibition (32.6 N), estimated as 60% of the overall strength deficit (54.3 +/- 29.7 N). These results confirm that significant strength is lost poststretching but fail to show greater improvement in strength following active vs. passive recovery. Collectively, the present findings indicate that, contrary to the belief of many coaches, muscular exercises during the poststretching period are unlikely to minimize stretch-induced strength deficits.
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