Flexibility improves range of motion and reduces wear on soft and hard tissue. Much research has emerged touting various best practices to improve flexibility. A study presented recently at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore suggests that resistance training, in some cases, may beat static stretching for enhancing range of motion.
The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks randomly assigned 25 college-age participants to one of three groups: strength training, stretching or a nonexercise control group. Programs for the strength training and flexibility groups focused on hamstring muscles and hip, shoulder and knee muscles and joints for 5 weeks. At study completion, the researchers determined that stretching and resistance training were equally beneficial for improving hamstring flexibility. For hip flexibility, resistance training was better than both nonintervention and static stretching. “Resistance training produced greater improvements in flexibility in some cases, while also improving strength,” stated lead study author James R. Whitehead, EdD. Specific information on the types of exercises performed was not available.
Rodney Corn, MA, IDEA author and presenter, and co-founder of PTA Global, is skeptical of the study’s findings. “This is a far deeper topic than the limited outcomes and data that the research provides us,” he suggests. “It is important to keep in mind that any movement has the potential to increase flexibility. It is how, when, why and for whom that motion is applied to the body that may make the biggest difference.” Corn adds that a well-rounded “flexibility” program will offer the grandest rewards. “Perhaps, instead of weighing in too heavily on one method versus another, we should explore and incorporate all methods of improving flexibility (yoga, Pilates, static and active isolated stretching, etc.). Do we really need one best method?”
For more information on recent stretching research, read “Stretching—a Research Retrospective” by Len Kravitz, PhD, in the November–December 2009 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.