Tip: No Need to Stretch If You Do This

Science shows you can improve mobility without stretching. Here's how.

People who stretch are so smug. And they're always in your way when you're trying to work out. They're like big, slobbery dogs that lie in front of the refrigerator door that you have to slide over with your foot (or a forklift) so you can lean in and grab a snack.

Then there's that way they look at you when you walk right in off the street and start your squat workout without doing a series of awkward, contortionist movements on the dirty ground. Their eyes say what they're thinking, and it's tsk-tsk.

Buncha' smug buttheads.

Thankfully, there's some research from Dr. James Whitehead that shows that plain old lifting is just as good as stretching.

The professor recruited 37 students. Twenty-five of them were randomly assigned to a strength-training group or a stretching group that focused on hamstrings, the hips, and the shoulders. Twelve other students served as a control group and did nothing for the duration of the study.

After 5 weeks, tests of flexibility and strength showed the following:

  • Hamstrings: The stretching and strength training groups performed equally well, and both groups did better, of course, than the group that did nothing.
  • Hip Flexibility: Stretch training didn't help hip flexibility, but strength training did.
  • Shoulder Extension Flexibility: Strength training worked just as well as stretching.

Whitehead admitted that this preliminary study was small and the findings need to be replicated in larger study, "...but if they hold up with replication, people really don't have to be worried about doing stretch exercises whenever they're doing resistance exercises."

Dr. Whitehead's study, as he stated, was small, but it helps confirm what every lifter who does full range-of-motion movements already knows deep down – that all that lifting pretty much amounts to forced stretching; that lifters are almost always a lot more limber than the average civilian or non weight-trained athlete.

So until some study disputes Whitehead's findings, or if stretching just makes you feel temporarily better, ignore all those mat rats that live on the ground with all the other vermin.

  1. From a paper presented to the American College of Sports Medicine's 57th Annual Meeting, Baltimore, June 1-5, 2010. James R. Whitehead, EdD, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.