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Stretch Your Muscles with Strength Training

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Although not everyone agrees about when to stretch, how long to stretch or what to stretch, most people include stretching as a regular part of their exercise routine. Research has shown that flexibility and range of motion decrease as we age. Regular stretching has a number of benefits, including increased range of motion, reduced muscular tension and increased circulation. But could there be another way to improve flexibility without having to stretch? New research shows that something else can help improve flexibility just as much- if not more- than stretching. What is it?

Surprisingly, the answer is strength training. The study was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting. 25 college-age volunteers were separated into two groups for a 5- week strength training or stretching program (which both focused on the same muscle groups.) A third control group engaged in neither kind of exercise.

According to the research, "Tests of flexibility and strength at the end of the five weeks showed:

Both stretching and strength training performed equally well at improving hamstring flexibility, and both were superior to no exercise.
Resistance training was superior to no intervention at improving hip flexibility, but stretch training was no better than doing nothing.
There were no differences between the groups when it came to shoulder extension flexibility.
Resistance training was superior to no intervention at building knee strength."

In short, the result showed no statistically significant advantage of stretching over resistance training.

It's important to note that this was a small study, and the findings are preliminary. That means they have yet-to-be published in any peer-reviewed journals. Certainly more studies will follow that can either refute or validate the results of this research.

What do you think? Do you enjoy stretching? Would you continue to stretch regardless of what the research says?

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I enjoy stretching I just forget to do it. If I don't do it before I begin and end then it won't happen. I know I am suppose to warmup but what constitutes a warm-up when you are going for a walk? Report
As a 50-something, I can't help feeling the study would have had different results with a broader-age group sample. Most college kids are fairly flexible to begin with compared to some of the rest of us. It also doesn't seem likely that a strength routine wouldn't have included any stretching after lifting.
I'll stick with stretching too! Report
I wish I had a stretch routine -- I seem to run out of time, and stretching seems to be the last thing on my list. I know a few stretches, but I should probably learn more. Report
I never started stretching - but I do strength training six days a week. I'm happy to stop feeling guilty about never stretching now :) Report
I have heard something similar from a personal trainer once. She said that as you contract one muscle, say the bicep for instance, the balancing muscle, in this case the tricep was being stretched. Also, as you release that same muscle, if you are using weights the pul of the weight on that muscle gives it a somewhat passive stretch. If you think about it that way it makes sense that strength and resistance training would improve flexibility. This also says why it is important to do balanced training between the front and back of a muscle group. I still love a good stretch at the end of a workout though. Report
Stretching feels so good I must say I'd continue. Report
At my age (74) I sure can tell the difference when I don't get my exercise. Aches appear but soon go away when I get back into my exercise routine! A variety of exercises seems to be essential. Report
I would definitely keep stretching. It feels so good that it's a motivation to do more cardio and strength training. Report
yes, I enjoy stretching Report
I couldn't possible choose between the two! They both make me feel and look good so I would never totally eliminate one or the other. Report
@ZOEJADA totally agree with you! I always wait to stretch after my workouts it seems to be most effective when my muscles are still warm :) Report
Stretching feels good, but that's about it for me! It doesn't surprise me that strength training came on top. Just a few weeks of training and I feel like my body is aligning itself. It feels fab!

When in doubt, do both! Report
I normally stretch after working out - either strength training or cardio. I like to do it after the muscles are warm; I'm afraid of tearing something if I stretch "cold." I think this study is very interesting and contrary to what I always thought. Report
I tend to stretch before and after working out. I do it before just to prepare my muscles for the workout to come. I then stretch them after they're good and hot! I definitely notice a huge increase in flexibility after working out! I also don't tend to get sore after my workout either... Report
I have learned how important it is to stretch after hurting my back.
My PT taught me how to stretch and how important it is to do before getting out of bed. I will continue to stretch daily because it works for me. Report
I hate stretching.. well not hate.. i just am lazy.. so haven't been doing the stretchs. but have learned from my sore body stretching or strenght training is best for our body's.. and i love the touching of toes.. i have to do that sometimes while grocery shopping. so i pretend to be looking for something on bottom shelf.. my big butt is in the air but i feel better.. too bad who is watching.. lol... i like the coments on here espcially the ones about the animals and thier stretchs. my dog stretchs everytime we try to put the lease on her.. so she must know to stretch is important before her exercise. as she loves her leash.. HAVE A GOOD PAIN FREE DAY. Report
I long ago learned from my cat....... stretch before getting up! Report
I believe in stretching and strength training. Nothing better than a good stretch afterwards. I believe it does give more flexibility as I know I have more now than prior to starting my exercise routine. Report
I stretch daily in some way or other - after my strength training, in my karate class after the warm-up, and once a week doing yoga. Progress is small but it's progress. Report
I stretch immediately after working each muscle group, when I believe they are warmed and the best time to stretch them for flexibility (but that's my theory). I am bad at waiting until the end of the workout because I just want to get out of the gym and back home. Report
As a 55 yr old woman who is very flexible compared to her peers (and who stretches DAILY) I think I'll continue with my stretching routine. Sometimes personal anecdotal evidence is more meaningful than scientific studies. Report
I normally stretch thoroughly after my workouts and I've found that my muscles don't seem to get as tight and sore. I'm encouraged by the findings of this study and it motivates me to re-incorporate more strength training into my fitness routine. Thanks for the info! Report
I like to stretch before and after my workout. It feels good and I am not as sore the next day. Report
I love to do bend forward and try to reach my toes. Feel good at my back, especially after long hours of sitting in front of computer. Report
Stretching is an impulse action in most wild and domesticated animals. Look at dogs and cats, hence downward facing Dog and the cat pose. Animals know they have to stretch to stay limber to hunt otherwise they will go hungry. People just forget to bother to do it. Children and even toddlers often like to take a good stretch now and then. They tend to sit in odd ways with their legs all over the place stretching muscles adults allow to almost freeze up. A good stretch and cleansing breaths are not just unique to exercise they should be done any time you get the urge. In My elementary school in England over a half century ago our teachers would suddenly announce we will all take a break for a stretch and a yawn, how smart they were to instill that in to us. The more you recognise the satisfaction they bring to your body the more you want to do it. It just does a body GOOD. Pat in Maine. Report
I think resistance training is vital for overall health. However, I would continue t stretch after my workouts because it feels good. Report
I feel so GOOD after a stretch. It just seems to make my workout complete! Report
Stretching keeps me moving. I am certain that the days when I stretch are physically better days for me. I have some issues with my hip and it really makes a difference for me to keep it limber. Report
I stretch a bit after my walking or riding my elliptical exercise bike. Probably not as much as I should, though. I was just reading an article here on stretching versus strength training. I am searching for a beginners guide to both. Report
If I could do it, I'd take a yoga class every single day. Yoga poses (stretches) have definitely helped improve my overall athletic ability. Increasing my flexibility means I have a greater range of motion in my joints. that does lower my risk for injury. It also makes my muscles much more efficient at lifting.

Most people don't realize that being flexible can help increase their strength.

So, yes ! I enjoy stretching for many different reasons.
I also would like to read more. I use a strech out strap to help with my stretches probably 5 days a week. I started stretching pretty much daily when i had phy therapy after scope surgery on my knee. In fact, at first you are supposed to do your stretches 3 times a day. i noted such an increase in flexibilty I was very impressed and have continued at the reduced rate of once a day Report
Like Cincy, I enjoy mixing yoga and strength training into my routine. I find that on weeks where I do both, I am less likely to have 'knots' or soreness and can really get the most of my workouts during all 6 days of activity (and on Saturday, I sleep in). Report
I agree with this study. I do not stretch, but do strength training. I began to notice the difference when I had a lower back strain. Stretching did little to nothing for pain relief, but with strength training to that particular area, I found relief within a few short days. I am in the 30-40 range, by the way. :) Report
I would love to see the results of doing both stretching and strength training. Personally I feel I get the best results when I alternate strength training with yoga. I am less likely to get repetitive stress pains and my muscles seem to recover faster from the workouts if I go to yoga twice a week. It doesn't seem to matter which form of yoga either. Report
i definitely would continue to stretch - i think that the focus group in the study 25 year old college age students was not the best choice. perhaps they should have used us 30 and 40 somethings and they would notice a difference.... Report
I am curious about more of the study details. Did the strength training group avoid stretching all together? I find that hard to believe because I tend to stretch even more often throughout the day after completing a strength workout. So I wonder if those incidental, not immediate post-workout stretches were measured. Report
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