Does Weightlifting Affect Flexibility? (The Right Answer)

So, does weightlifting affect your flexibility negatively? If we gave a straight answer to this question, it would be an emphatic NO.

However, There are Things You May Have Been Neglecting For Long

Many fitness enthusiasts who want to build big muscles and flaunt an impressive hulk tend to incline towards weight and resistance training.

Nothing, perhaps, attracts them more than words such as benches and squats! And yet, they also often suffer from the nagging doubt that lifting heavy weights day in, day out would reduce their overall flexibility and make them vulnerable to injuries.

It is true that intense resistance training regimens can negatively impact flexibility if not backed up by proper and adequate recovery practices. But that is just as much true for many cardiovascular and static stretching routines.

Typically, what is essential is that you follow, per your workout goals, the right program that will help you achieve your goal without exposing you to any risk of injury.

At this point, however, we can already imagine you asking, but what is the right program? And how do I know that I’m following one such?

Before we go into that, we, in turn, would like to ask you something fundamental which is that what does ‘flexibility’ mean to you? Or rather, to you, what is the criterion of flexibility?

What is the Measure of Flexibility?

Flexibility, at best, is an ambiguous term. And there are different degrees of flexibility. So, what is important is that whether or not you are flexible enough for achieving the goal you’ve set for yourself and ideally, reaching it without risk of exposing yourself to any potential injury, at present or in the future.

For instance, a weightlifter does not need the sort of flexibility that, say, an acrobat or a professional gymnast would require. He has no need whatsoever to throw his leg behind his leg. That kind of flexibility is just not needed as far as he is concerned!

Often, the problem stems from our confusing the notion of flexibility with that of mobility. A weightlifter who follows a right program may not be flexible, but all the same, he should be reasonably mobile, and THAT is just about enough for him.
Flexibility and Mobility

However, notions of flexibility and mobility are not all subjective, after all. Modern science says that flexibility has primarily to do with muscle tissues.

For example, the higher the ability of muscle tissue to lengthen itself passively through a varied range of motions, the greater the flexibility. On the other hand, mobility relates more to joints and their ability to accurately compare and coordinate with each other.

For instance, some people would be able to touch their toes reasonably effortlessly, and this is due to their impressive hamstring flexibility. However, if you ask these same people to sit in a full squat, you may find that most are not able to do so.

Why do you think this happens? Because, in the latter case, the reduced mobility prevents these people from hingeing their hip and leg joints properly.

Thus it appears that there are people who are naturally more flexible than most others and can wow many with some acrobatic feats, but that’s all because they have naturally stretchy muscle tissue.

However, stretchy does not equal to strong, and if you do not have muscle tissue, you may encounter a string of different problems during your workout routine—whether it is resistance training, static stretching or cardiovascular exercises.

Being ‘too flexible’ comes with its disadvantages. So, for example, if you are performing any specific set and if you have naturally stretchy muscle tissue, there is always the risk that you may overreach the movement and thus put your muscles, ligaments or tendons in unstable and unsupported positions. And this would increase risks of injury.

Mobility and a Balanced Routine

The skeptics among us may still say at this point say that we’ve just substituted the term flexibility with mobility! And practically, it does not help them much! And we do concur.

However, in broaching the subject of flexibility and mobility and in spelling out the difference between them, it was not our intention to ignore the issue of flexibility or throw caution to the wind about it.

However, since in our experience we’ve found too many people to be overanxious on this issue of flexibility, we thought it would be helpful if we could dispel some common myths and misconceptions regarding flexibility.

For the average gymgoer, though, there IS a way to test, if or not their flexibility/mobility is on point.

You can try this test at home or the gym, just as you prefer. Now, this is what to do. Hold a metal rod/bar above your head and slowly squat down until your hips are resting on your calf muscles.

This is commonly known as an overhead squat. If you can pull it off comfortably, then rest assured that you are alright on the mobility front.

On the other hand, if you fail the test, it means you have got to work to do to increase your mobility, and this is irrespective of how impressive your performances are with benches and squats.

A Balanced Routine

It is common that if you lift heavy weights consistently and do not balance it with proper recover routines, you will end up sore, tight and will possibly expose yourself to muscle damage and even, long-term injury.

This is particularly true in case of high-load, high-volume regimens which put a lot of emphasis on hypertrophy, i.e., when your goal is to make any particular muscle or set of muscles as large as possible.

It is common that if you lift heavy weights consistently and do not balance it with proper recover routines, you will end up sore, tight and will possibly expose yourself to muscle damage and even, long-term injury.

This is particularly true in case of high-load, high-volume regimens which put a lot of emphasis on hypertrophy, i.e., when your goal is to make any particular muscle or set of muscles as large as possible.

Now, the prevailing notion is that you should perform stretching pre- and post-workout to reduce soreness in muscles. However, when it comes to stretching, first of all, most tend to go for static stretching. And then, they often neglect this part as well.

Here’s is what a fitness expert had to say about this. When she was asked about how most average gymgoers respond to stretching routines, she told that most of them show a tendency to neglect stretching and proper pre-workout exercises.

The most common response is that they don’t have time enough to expand on stretches. To this, the emphatic reply of the expert was that: she didn’t have sufficient time to get injured!

Stretching: Static or Dynamic?

However, when we talk of a balanced routine or recovery practices, we don’t mean that you should merely perform some static stretching before and after your main workout routine.

No matter what you have heard, static stretching is not the ideal recovery exercise at least when you are engaged in high volume weightlifting or resistance training programs.

A far better alternative is dynamic stretching. For example, foam rolling is a good exercise for weightlifters, and if you foam roll for about 20-30 minutes every day, you can dramatically reduce issues like sore muscles, muscle fatigue, etc.

Equally important is what many call a ‘dynamic warm-up.’ For instance, if you are about to undergo a heavy bench or squat session, first spend about 15 minutes in warming up your joints before you add load to them.

Perform some bodyweight squats, warm up the legs, open up your hips, and so on. These exercises help in priming your nervous system so that when you are performing the actual heavy load programs, your movement patterns and your range of motion will improve spontaneously.

Does this mean that you forego static stretching altogether? No. Many experts these days recommend static stretching only as a post-workout routine. This will balance out your growing strengths with flexibility gains.

Some even say that you may also relegate static stretching to alternate days. Others suggest that it is a good idea for heavy lifters to do some light static stretching before they go to bed since this works as a signal to the body that it is time to wind down.

Heavy Lifting to Boost Flexibility

You may even be thrilled to know that there are some weight training programs which help boost your flexibility, or mobility if you prefer. Example of these includes dumbbell pullover, Romanian deadlifts, dumbbell fly, overhead triceps press, etc.

When you perform these routines, your joints, ligaments, and muscles go through a full range of motions, and these help to both lengthen and strengthen your muscles and thus improve flexibility.

As long as you use a full range of motion through your resistance routine programs, you did not need to worry about flexibility or injury issues.

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Does Weightlifting Affect Flexibility? (The Right Answer)

Tomasz Faber

HI, MY NAME IS TOMASZ, and welcome to my site I’m a weightlifter, and I’m very much interested in health and fitness subjects. Throughout a few years of my weightlifting training, and diet experience, I managed to make my body much, much stronger, as well as build endurance and athletic figure. I live in London, UK, where I enjoy my weightlifting more...

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