HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR FLEXIBILITY WITHOUT STRETCHING
It is well known that stretching will improve your flexibility otherwise known as increasing your range of motion (ROM). Range of motion is the angle by which a joint moves from its resting position to the extremities of its range of motion in any given direction. Many people have a desire to improve their range of motion for a variety of reasons but are static stretching sessions the most efficient and effective way to improve flexibility?
Improving ROM is a core goal for the general population, as well as in clinical contexts, such as treating respiratory failure, recovering from breast cancer surgery, hip replacement surgery, and many more. Several common medical conditions negatively affect ROM such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. ROM increases are also relevant in various sports such as basketball, hockey, baseball, and rowing. ROM is improved through increased stretch tolerance. Traditionally stretching is usually prescribed for increasing ROM in sports and clinical settings but recent research out of an exercise science lab in Brazil suggests that stretching isn't the only effective way to increase flexibility.
It should be noted that muscle weakness is associated with diminished ROM. Strength training can be achieved through a number of methods as long as resistance is applied to promote strength gains, and includes methods as diverse as using free weights, machines, bands, and body weight exercises. For guidance on how to start a strength training program click HERE to schedule a FREE 45 minute virtual introductory workout with an expert exercise physiologist from Reformed Fitness. Although strength training primarily addresses muscle weakness, it has been shown to increase ROM as well. A recent systemic review from researchers in brazil aimed to answer the question of how much could you increase your ROM from strength training and does it compare to the effects of traditional static stretching.
The researchers reviewed 194 studies that looked at flexibility both from static stretching and from strength training to determine what the preponderance of research suggested to be more beneficial for improving ROM. The articles they reviewed consisted of interventions that lasted between 5 and 16 weeks. The minimum strength training frequency was 2 weekly sessions and maximum was five strength training sessions. Several traditional stretching modalities were reviewed including static active, dynamic, dynamic with 10 second hold, and a combination of dynamic and static. The articles measured increases in ROM at the knee, shoulder, hip, cervical spine, elbow, and trunk.
Direct comparisons were performed between strength training and stretching groups involving a total of 452 participants. The effects of strength training versus stretching on ROM showed there was no significant difference between the two modalities. This means that based on the latest research there is no difference between traditional stretching and strength training through a full ROM when it comes to increasing flexibility. Knowing the other profound benefits that strength training provides including increasing strength, improving cardiovascular fitness, increased cognitive function, fat loss, and many other benefits its clear that strength training is going to be a much more effective and efficient way to increase your flexibility.
For more information on how to get started with a science based strength training routine head to reformed-fitness.com and schedule a FREE 45 minute introductory workout. Our expert exercise physiologists are excited to serve you!