Changes in ankle joint stiffness due to stretching: The role of tendon elongation of the gastrocnemius muscle

Emika Kato*, Hiroaki Kanehisa, Tetsuo Fukunaga, Yasuo Kawakami

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to investigate changes in ankle joint stiffness and the associated changes in the gastrocnemius muscle and tendon due to static stretching. Seven healthy male participants lay supine with the hip and knee joints fully extended. The right ankle joint was rotated into dorsiflexion from a 308 plantar flexed position and the torque measured by a dynamometer. The ankle joint was maintained in a dorsiflexed position for 20 min (static stretching of the calf muscles). We performed surface electromyography of the medial and lateral gastrocnemii, the soleus, and the tibialis anterior of the right leg to confirm no muscle activity throughout static stretching and the passive test (passive dorsiflexion). During static stretching, the ankle joint angle and elongation of the gastrocnemius were recorded by goniometry and ultrasonography, respectively. Tendon elongation of the gastrocnemius was calculated based on the changes in the ankle joint angle and muscle elongation. In addition, the relationships between passive torques and ankle joint angles, and elongation of muscle and tendon, were examined before and after static stretching. The ankle dorsiflexion angle and tendon elongation increased significantly by 10 min after the onset of static stretching, while there was no further increase in muscle length. In addition, ankle dorsiflexion angle and tendon elongation at an identical passive torque (30 N · m) increased significantly (from 24 ± 7° to 33 ± 5° and from 17±2 mm to 22 ± 1 mm, respectively) after static stretching. However, muscle elongation was unchanged. In conclusion, the current results suggest that an increase in the ankle joint dorsiflexion angle due to static stretching is attributable to a change in tendon not muscle stiffness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-119
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Sport Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Mar


  • Achilles tendon
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Joint range of motion
  • Muscle-tendon unit
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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