How Lifting Can Increase Your Flexibility

Flexibility is a problem with most adult males and females. Today’s professional careers have caused our bodies to become less flexible. In the hunter/gatherer sense, our ancestors definitely did not have to sit in front of a computer for 40-70 hours during the workweek with minimal movement. Our ancestors sprinted, hiked, crawled, and labored daily through movement.

I just don’t have the time to stretch!

…a comment I hear regularly. Fortunately, I give them some refreshing news. “You don’t have to take time to stretch! If you dedicate yourself to weightlifting in a FULL range of motion, you will increase your flexibility.” Most people are shocked at this idea. They think weightlifters are inflexible. While this is a misconception, research shows that lifting not only improves your flexibility but may make you optimal.

How can lifting increase range of motion?

Let’s step back for a moment. Studies have shown that between the ages of 30 and 70, flexibility will decrease by 20-50%. This is definitely not a good formula as we age. The results of losing range of motion will compromise your joints full range of motion. Dr. Jeff Volek, an Associate Professor in the #1 ranked Department of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut where he teaches and leads a research team that explores the physiologic impact of various dietary and exercise regimens and nutritional supplements, explains, “If you can’t squat down until the back of your thighs touch your calves (most men can’t), you have tight hip flexors, which limits your movement at the knee joint.”

The International Journal of Sports Medicine researchers found that 3 full body workouts per week for 16 weeks increased flexibility of the hips and shoulders by more than 30% compared to individuals who focused on sit-and-reach tests improved by 11%. Researchers have shown that Olympic weight lifters rate of flexibility is second to gymnasts.

How do you perform a lift in a full range of motion if lack the flexibility?

Let’s use Dr. Volek’s squat example. For the individual who cannot have their thigh touch the back of their calves, they should go as deep as they can as long as they can get back up to start position. As they perform each repetition in this abbreviated range of motion, they still are improving their flexibility. If they utilize this concept each time they lift, in time, they will be able to overcome the lack of flexibility and have the range of motion to have the thigh touch the calf.

What are you to do?

When you lift weights, make sure you lift in the joints natural full range of motion. While you are developing strength with the targeted muscles, you are also increasing your flexibility of the muscle as well. You don’t need more time to stretch, just invest in quality full range of motion lifts. According to the International Journal of Sports Medicine, you can increase your range of motion by 30% vs. static stretching only accomplished 11% in the same amount of time. If you do not have the flexibility for a full range of motion lift, compromise your depth and in time, you will have that range of motion. Lifting will increase your joints range of motion, making you more flexible. Not only does this work with Olympic weight lifters and gymnasts, but for your average individual.

(For concerns about safety with your range of motion, refer to my article “What You Should Know About Range of Motion”)


Steven Zahn

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Personal Trainer

Pre and Post Partum Certified

Dragondoor Publications: HKC Russian Kettlebell Certified