Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate reductions of muscle stiffness induced by static stretching in older and younger men. Methods Twenty older (62-83 yr) and 20 younger (21-24 yr) men were recruited. Ankle dorsiflexion static stretching was consisted of 90 s × 5 repetitions. Before and after the stretching, the dorsiflexion range of motion (RoM), passive plantar flexion torque, and shear modulus (an index of stiffness) of the medial (MG) and lateral gastrocnemius and the soleus were measured. Results RoM, passive torque, and shear modulus of the triceps surae measured at the maximal dorsiflexion angle before stretching were significantly lower for the older group than the younger group. This suggests a weak stretching intensity for older compared with younger people. The stretching significantly improved RoM for both groups. For the older group, a significant reduction in passive torque was only observed at a 15° dorsiflexion angle, and the shear modulus was significantly decreased only for the distal region of MG. For the younger group, passive torque was significantly reduced for the entire RoM, and a significant decrease in shear modulus was found for the central and distal regions of MG and lateral gastrocnemius. A significant correlation between the muscle shear modulus measured at the maximal dorsiflexion angle before stretching and a stretching-induced decrease in muscle shear modulus was observed for older and younger participants. This indicates that the higher stretching intensity can reduce more muscle stiffness. Conclusion Static stretching can reduce muscle stiffness regardless of age, although the stretching effect on muscle stiffness was limited for older people. This might be due to a lower stretching intensity for older than younger people.
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