Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Preliminary Findings Challenge Idea That Stretching Is Better for Flexibility

June 4, 2010 -- Preliminary research calls into question the old adage that stretching improves flexibility more than resistance training.

"Our results suggest that full-range resistance training regimens can improve flexibility as well as, or perhaps better than, typical static stretching regimens," says James R. Whitehead, EdD, of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

Also known as strength training, resistance training usually involves lifting weights in order to build muscle. You can also increase your strength by pushing or working against something that resists your weight, such as doing push-ups.

"There's an old notion that if you do resistance training, you have to stretch those muscles too," Whitehead tells WebMD. "It's a hangover to the myth that muscles lose flexibility as they get bigger."

Resistance Training Improves Flexibility, Strength

An extensive search of scientific literature review failed to turn up any studies where strength training was actually pitted against stretching to see which better improves range of motion, Whitehead says.

So the researchers compared the two techniques’ effect on flexibility of different muscles and joints in 25 college-age volunteers.

Participants were randomly assigned to strength training or stretching programs focusing on the hamstring muscles and hip, shoulder, and knee muscles and joints for five weeks. As a comparison group, 12 other students engaged in neither type of exercise.

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.

The findings were presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Baltimore.

Findings on Resistance Training 'Not Surprising'

"Resistance training produced greater improvements in flexibility in some cases, while also improving strength," Whitehead says.

The preliminary study was small and the findings need to be replicated in larger numbers of people, he says.

"But if they hold up with replication, people really don’t have to be worried about doing stretch exercises whenever they’re doing resistance exercises," Whitehead says.

William Lunn, PhD, an exercise scientist at the University of Connecticut, tells WebMD he's not surprised by the results.

"If you do resistance training -- especially if you focus on full range of motion -- you would promote flexibility," he says.

"Look at Olympic weight lifters," Lunn says. "They’re extremely powerful lifters, but they’re also extremely flexible," he says.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

WebMD Health News

Heart Rate Calculator

Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...

-
Beats
PER
Seconds

Heart Rate Calculator

Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...

-
Beats
PER
Seconds