Does weight training decrease flexibility? Fitness trainers answer the most googled questions

Posted by for Strong Women

Does weight training decrease flexibility? Fitness Trainers answer the most googled questions.  

Gym lore would have us believe that weight training is detrimental to our flexibility. But, as with all exercise, the key to success is form. So, whether you’re doing a home workout or lifting weights in the gym, ensuring that you strength train in the correct way will mean that you can actually improve your flexibility.

With the coronavirus lockdown lifting, there will be plenty of people raring to get back into the gym once their doors reopen, to pick their training up where they left off. To make sure you’re building muscle during your workout without negatively impacting your flexibility, we asked Strong Women ambassadors and members of the Strong Women Collective Emma Obayuvana and Alice Rose-Miller for their advice on how to keep up your form – both with a dumbbell and on a yoga mat.  

Does building bigger muscles decrease flexibility?

Emma Obayuvana: 

“Building bigger muscles doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in flexibility, provided that resistance training is performed through a full range of motion.

Also, ensuring that we properly warm up in preparation for weight training with a mobility based warm up and then stretch post-workout, will ensure that our flexibility does not decrease.”

Alice Rose-Miller: 

“It depends on the person. Olympic weight lifters require flexibility to enable them to be efficient whilst moving the barbell, so stretching is usually included into their programmes.

If someone isn’t actively incorporating stretching into their programmes or rest days then the likelihood of them getting injured is increased, and not moving their bodies through their full range of motion means they’re really missing out. If you are weight training it’s important to be mobile and flexible so you can use your full range and get the most out of the exercise.”

woman lifting free weights dumbbells gym
Building bigger muscles doesn't necessarily mean a decrease in flexibility.

Is tightness after strength training linked to flexibility?

Emma Obayuvana: 

“Tightness post-weight training is down to tiny tears in muscle fibres that are a result of weight training and the stress those fibres undergo during training. That’s how our muscles grow and we get stronger, provided that balanced nutrition and ample recovery is present.”

Alice Rose-Miller: 

DOMS (or delayed-onset muscle soreness) usually occurs one to two days after resistance training due to the volume of exercises completed, or because you have been focusing on the eccentric phase of an exercise, whether you are flexible or not. However, you are more likely to be tight after hypertrophy work than a strength workout.”

Will stretching help maintain/increase flexibility after strength training?

Emma Obayuvana: 

“It is important to stretch post-workout to ensure flexibility is maintained and muscles do not remain in a shortened state. Stretching may not alleviate muscle soreness and tightness, however it will ensure that flexibility is maintained. My morning stretch routine is a good place to start when looking for post-workout stretches.”

Alice Rose-Miller:

“Yes. A combination of static stretching after sessions and weight training using your full range of motion will help increase your flexibility, and help you get to the bottom of those heavy squats!”

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