Resistance training the key to ‘loosening up’

Often clients think that strength training (resistance training/gym training/HIIT training) causes their muscles to tighten up? So why would you do strength training and not just stretching to help relieve that tight sensation 

This is a question that came up in the treatment room this week so I thought that I would try and explain it for people in this forum, because it is a great question! 

There have been so many studies on how best to treat and manage ‘tightness’, because it affects such a large proportion of the population at some stage in their life. 

With more research we get more answers. Lucky for us some great researchers (in this case Tom Goom) have filtered through the data for us so give us a systematic review. 

There are many factors that can cause tightness in the body, such as age, sex, genetic differences and previous injuries just to name a few. Therefore studies suggesting stretching versus strength training have had some conflicting information in the past. In 9 of the studies analysed both strength and stretching training increased range of motion in 7 of the studies, and in the other two one suggested strength training was better and the other said stretching.

So that seems like it comes out pretty equal to do them individually but great results if you do both training variants throughout the week!  

We also know, there are so many other benefits of strength training on the body that we can’t achieve the same levels with stretching alone. Just to name a few they are: 

  • Increased strength
  • Improved balance
  • Increased neuromuscular connections
  • Increased tolerance to stress on the body
  • Increased blood flow
  • Increased bone density and strength 

So if stretching and strength both show an increase in range of motion, why wouldn’t we do strength to gain all of these benefits as well?

Without going into endless detail, some exercise programs will perform better than others, they need to have progressive load where the body gains strength whilst increasing motion in the movement. 

For example in a deadlift (for lower back stiffness), we might start with a mid thigh pull and slowly progress to a lift where the weight will eventually end up below our feet. 

This also doesn’t mean that we only do strength training, we can absolutely combine this with stretching and cardio workouts as well, a well rounded training regime has benefits right across the board! Stretching can be convenient and easily be included as warm ups and cool downs, or even in your down time at home or the office, there is always time in even the busiest person’s day to do some exercise to benefit your health for the short term and the long term. 

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