Mar 19, 2021
3 min

Flexibility vs. Strength: How to Stay Flexible While you Strengthen

Everything you need to know about flexibility and strengthening. Learn what flexibility is, why it's important, tips on staying flexible and how strengthening can help.

You don’t need to put your feet behind your head, but being flexible can help you with everyday activities like picking things up from the floor, tying your shoes, or even reaching to scratch your back!

This article will look at how you can stay flexible while you strength train and why it’s important to do so.

But what is flexibility and why is it important to stay flexible when you’re working on strengthening your body? 

What is flexibility? 

Flexibility is the body's ability to move without pain or restriction.

Flexibility is often confused with Range of Motion (ROM), which is the capacity of your joints and series of joints’ have to move. 

Muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and your organs affect your flexibility. Whereas ROM is determined by your bone structure.

Your muscles, joints, ligaments, and organs are held together and moved by your fascia. The fascia has a significant role in your body’s flexibility and ability to move through space. 

Fascia is a layer of connective tissue that surrounds all of your organs, bones, blood vessels, nerve fibres, and muscles. Your fascia has nerves and is more sensitive than your skin.

Fascia reacts to stress in the body and can tighten up to protect your body. 

Your body tightens if you feel stressed so that you don’t go and tear ligaments and tendons in your joints, which is an amazing thing because tendons and ligaments don’t heal like muscles do. 

If you’re experiencing a lot of tightness or pain in your body see an osteopath, physiotherapist or movement practitioner to help you understand and change your body’s movement patterns.

Why is flexibility important?

Flexibility is just as important as strength. Flexibility is important for maintaining balance in your body.

Strength training stresses the body out. This isn’t a bad thing! Adding stretches before and after your workouts can significantly improve your recovery time.

Adding stretches to your workout routine can also help you stay active on your off days, reduce soreness, and even help strengthen your muscles!

When your flexibility is limited, then you are putting added pressure on other joints and muscles in your body.

Flexibility is an important part of keeping your body supple, mobile, and calm.

How Strengthening can Affect Flexibility

Strengthening can affect your flexibility in a variety of ways. 

1. Tightens muscle fibers

Strengthening your muscles can make your body feel sore, stiff and tense.

When you strengthen your muscles - whether that is with body weight or weighted exercise - you are breaking down and rebuilding your muscle fibers. That’s how your muscles grow.

This is why it’s important to stretch before and after your workouts. 

2. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

If you ever felt sore the day after or even two days after a workout, then make sure you stretch! Working on your flexibility can also help you stay moving on your off days. 

Stretching will help your muscles stay hydrated and limber. Stretching can also improve your recovery time.

3. Stabilize joints

If you’re a very bendy person, strengthening can help balance your flexibility.

Some people are hypermobile. When your joints are loose they become unstable. Strengthening can help stabilize your joints and give you better body awareness.

Adding stretching exercises to your workout routine can help you feel stronger, more balanced, and recover faster. 

But what kind of stretches should you be doing before and after your workout?

Best Stretches Before and After Strengthening

The best stretches to do before and after a strengthening workout depend on what your workout focuses on.

If you work glutes, try to stretch your lower body, and if you work your upper body, do more upper body stretches. 

Before your workout:

Keep stretches active. Don’t hold stretches too long. Take deep breaths. Try to focus your stretches on the areas you’ll be working on in your strength training workout.

Some good stretches to do are:

Keep these stretches smaller and focus on active stretching instead of passive stretching. This will help warm your muscles up for your day or your workout.

Once your warm you can do deeper stretches.

After your workout:

Stretching after your workout is important for reducing soreness. You can do deeper stretches when you’re warm.

A few good stretches to do after a workout include:

You can hold stretches longer when you’re warm. 

Focus on stretching areas you worked during your workout. If you did a lot of lower body exercises, make sure to incorporate lots of lower body stretches.

Remember to take long, deep, slow breaths to help slow down your heart rate and cool your body down.

Start to build a stretching routine that will help you warm up and cool down before and after a workout.

General Tips for Staying Flexible

Here are 4 tips to apply to help you become more flexible.

1. A little, a lot

Pick a few simple stretches you can do throughout your day. Start with one or two stretches you can sprinkle into your routine throughout the day.

Even just yawning when you get up, doing a simple forward fold when you're tying your shoes, or a standing quad stretch when you’re brushing your teeth can help you achieve your flexibility goals!

2. Stretch in the morning

Try adding some stretching to your morning routine. This is a great way to get your body ready for the day. It’s also a great way to boost your mood and reduce stress.

3. Breathe and yawn

Whatever stretch you do, make sure you breathe. If you breathe and yawn when you stretch then your body will thank you.

4. Calm your body and mind

Remember that your fascia reacts to your emotions. If you’re stressed, you might feel tighter. Don’t let that bring you down. Every day is different. 

Approach your flexibility with kindness and curiosity and you’ll be flexible in no time!

Stay flexible doesn't have to be hard work!

You don’t need to do the splits to be flexible! Start small and build up your flexibility routine.

Flexibility will help you feel stronger, recover faster, and boost your energy and mood!

Try incorporating some stretching into your routine to feel how flexibility can help you feel stronger!

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