The effect of the contract-relax-antagonist-contract (CRAC) stretch of hamstrings on range of motion, sprint and agility performance in moderately active males: A randomised control trial


Background: Although stretching is done routinely to prevent injury during explosive sport activities, there is some concern that effective stretching might negatively impact on performance.

Objectives: This study’s main objective was to investigate the impact of a specific stretch (CRAC), in which the muscle to be stretched, hamstrings, is actively contracted then relaxed. This is then followed by the antagonist muscle (quadriceps) contracting. Secondly, the impact of the stretch on performance was examined.

Methods: A randomised control trial was used. Forty healthy active males between 21 and 35 years of age were assigned to either receive three repetitions of CRAC or rest. Hamstring flexibility and the Illinois Agility Test were the primary outcome measures.

Results: The intervention was effective in improving hamstring flexibility by 37% immediately post-application and this was maintained for eight minutes thereafter. It had no significant effect on agility or sprint times.

Conclusions: CRAC applied to stretch the hamstring muscles of active males resulted in a large increase of active knee extension range of motion, without decreasing performance. CRAC appears to be a safe and effective method of increasing the length of the hamstrings pre-sport activity and should be utilised by sports physiotherapists if deemed necessary and beneficial following initial assessment.

Author Biographies

T Burgess

Senior Lecturer, Division of Physiotherapy, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

K Buchholtz

Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology

J Jelsma

Emeritus Professor, Division of Physiotherapy

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