Being strong and flexible is the ultimate physical achievement, however, many fail to attain it. While there’s a common misconception in the fitness industry that one cannot be both strong and flexible at the same time, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, an effectively programmed strength regimen should actually improve, or at the very least maintain one’s flexibility.
Unfortunately, too often, people who engage in weightlifting become so narrowly focused on building muscle and strength that they neglect flexibility and mobility training; If only they understood that improving flexibility and maintaining proper mobility can have an advantageous effect on the former…
Nevertheless, it’s time to debunk the ever-prevalent myth that one cannot be strong and flexible simultaneously. How does one build strength without losing flexibility, you ask?
The benefits of flexibility for strength training
Being strong and physically fit is more than just a numbers game. In other words, it requires more than just lifting heavy weights and putting them back down. If you want any type of longevity in the way of physical strength and fitness, there are several things you’re going to need to do outside of weightlifting exclusively.
One of the primary implementations? Flexibility training and stretching, both dynamically and statically.
Strength training doesn’t only require a level of flexibility to succeed. Flexibility also provides several benefits when it comes to strength training. As you can see, it’s a two-way street, each complimenting one another.
Flexibility isn’t primarily exclusive to those who can do the splits on command either. Quite the opposite actually. Simply put, flexibility by definition is the ability to move the joints through a given range of motion.
As you can imagine, without that range of motion, there’s no way to move the weights necessary in order to build real strength gains. Being flexible is beneficial in everyday life, for performance, and for building strength, among other things. It also reduces your risk of injury; a key component to longevity.
A summary of the key benefits of flexibility:
- Improved athletic performance
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved posture & balance
- Relief of aches, pains, and muscle cramps
As you can see, building strength isn’t among the key benefits of flexibility. This is because flexibility doesn’t directly improve strength. However, by improving overall performance, reducing injury, improving posture, and relieving muscle cramps during exercise, you provide your body with the most optimal environment for success and thus build strength without roadblocks.
Too often, gym-goers report that they’re only seeing subpar results, curious as to why. After all, they’re pushing themselves in the gym, but to no avail…
The likely culprit? Failure to stretch.
When asked whether or not they proactively rehabilitate and recover through stretching, the answer usually goes something like this: “Well, I try, but I just don’t have the time…” or “I know stretching is important, but I just hate doing it…”
Warming up before a workout, dynamically stretching in between, and cooling down for recovery purposes post-workout is imperative to your success, your performance, and your results.
So, how do you build strength without losing flexibility? The short answer: stretch.
Building strength without losing flexibility
Building strength without losing flexibility isn’t rocket science; at least, it shouldn’t be. It should be quite a routine approach. What follows is a summarized description of what’s required in order to achieve both strength gains and flexibility.
Resistance training (or strength training) has been found in preliminary studies to improve flexibility even more effectively than static stretching itself! That alone should be enough to convince anyone with the goal of muscle building and strength improvements to begin stretching.
While more research certainly needs to be done on the matter, it’s promising to note that resistance training may play a role in improving flexibility, or at the very least, doesn’t hinder one’s flexibility.
Stretch, stretch, stretch!
For insurances, to maintain flexibility throughout a strength training protocol, one should ensure a proper dynamic warmup for injury prevention and performance purposes, followed by a static stretching regimen post-workout for recovery purposes.
Stretching not only allows for greater flexibility but also aids in muscle recovery after an intensive strength-training workout.
Moreover, stretching doesn’t have to be strenuous or time-consuming. A simple 5-10 minute dynamic warmup, 30-second stretches executed sporadically throughout your day, and a proper 5-10 minute static cool-down post-workout should suffice.
Lastly, when seeking to build strength without losing flexibility, one should consider implementing mobility exercises during a given resistance training session. Plyometrics is a great example.
Plyometrics involves a multi-joint, explosive approach to athletic performance. In other words, a high level of mobility and flexibility is required. By implementing plyometric exercises throughout your workout, you not only improve overall performance but you’ll increase mobility and flexibility in the process!
While many view their fitness goals through a singular lens of focus, it actually requires an all-encompassing, multifaceted approach, whatever your goal may be. In other words, if your goal is building strength, simply lifting weights won’t suffice. If your goal is endurance, simply running long distances won’t be sustainable.
Instead, understand that our bodies are complex machines that require a comprehensive approach to maintenance and improvement. After all, the musculoskeletal system as a whole is an interconnected system, with each part being connected somehow to another; the same goes for fitness.
So, if you’re looking to build muscle, you must also seek to maintain flexibility and vice versa. Building muscle without losing flexibility should be everyone’s intention. Improving flexibility in the process? Now we’re talking!
If you’re looking for a facility here in Kauai, Hawaii, to embark upon your strength and flexibility journey, check us out at Kilauea Phys Ed! Not only do we have top-of-the-line equipment for you to use to aid in your progress, but we have the most supportive staff and community in the area!