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Weightlifting and Flexibility: Does It Make You Inflexible?

Weightlifting and Flexibility: Does It Make You Inflexible?

Many people believe that weightlifting impairs flexibility. Is this true?


Athletes were once advised not to lift weights because it would make them stiff and inflexible, and hurt their performance.

Well, we now know better. Sure, being a hulking brute naturally limits your flexibility (big bodybuilders have an interesting time wiping on the toilet and showering), but research has shown that weightlifting itself, with a full range of motion, actually increases flexibility just as well as, or even better than, static stretching.

In a study conducted by the University of North Dakota, researchers divided 25 volunteers into three groups: a control group (that did nothing, of course), a static stretching group, and a resistance training group.

The result after five weeks: the researchers found no significant difference between the static stretching and resistance training groups in all measures of flexibility (hip extension, hip flexion, shoulder extension, knee extension).

Another study conducted by Castelo Branco University in Brazil showed that 8 weeks of resistance training improved flexibility better than static stretching in all but one measurement.

The reality is that weight training with proper form increases flexibility because you’re repeatedly moving muscles, joints, and ligaments through their full ranges of motion.

In fact, some exercises provide deep stretches that are hard to beat, such as the Dumbbell Fly, Romanian Deadlift, Dumbbell Pullover, Dumbbell Row, and Overhead Triceps Press.

So, improved flexibility is yet another reason to use a full range of motion in weightlifting (in addition to preventing injuries and improving strength gains and muscle growth).


Have you experienced the flexibility benefits of weightlifting? Anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Artid

    I always try to lift heavy. No ROM restrictions up to now. Nothing to complain about.

  • Rory

    I had an operation on my shoulder just over a year ago. Still have two titanium plates and 7 screws. My shoulder mobility was SERIOUSLY impaired. I say ‘was’! Pull-ups, pull-overs, presses and hanging leg lifts soon cured that!

  • Huzaif Mistry

    Lifting with proper form and full ROM have really helped my flexibility. I’ve tested out the theory in some yoga classes as well and it’s proven to be true.

    • Me too. Before training properly, I used to be fairly inflexible. I fixed my form across the board years ago and my wife’s yoga teacher is amazed at my flexibility. I never do static stretching either.

      • Huzaif Mistry

        Before I trained properly with full range I could barely do stances and I didn’t have as much transferable skills outside the gym. Now I can jump higher in basketball (I had to re-do my shot because I jumped higher than before) and I can even do what I believe is the Crane position, where you balance on your hands while pulling in your knees. I can only do it for a second but it’s a start. I just need to do yoga consistently now

        • That’s great! Improved verticals, running speeds, and flexibility are common side effects of proper leg training. Keep it up!

  • Mahendra Panchal

    Hi Mike. Merry Christmas to you. I’m Maddy from India. I read your book “Bigger Leaner Stronger”. Thanks for such a wonderful book. In here, there is a fashion of body massage in the gyms. They say that massage improves the flexibility of body and also relax the muscles. They use some kind of Ayurvedic Oil for massage. While massaging, they push so hard that we want to cry out. They even get drenched in sweat. Is this advisable? Is this has the same outcome of your ‘De-load week’ to re-activate the muscle growth?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Maddy! Merry Xmas to you too!

      I’m a big fan of massage for working out muscle knots and retaining mobility. That said, you don’t need to have someone obliterate you to get these benefits.

      I get massaged every week and it’s moderately deep–enough to be uncomfortable at points, which is necessary for releasing tight muscles and such.

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  • Allen

    Hey Mike, since you mentioned it…what’s your opinion on Yoga?

  • Serina

    Hi Mike, I’m actually becoming less flexible since I’ve started working out more. I used to be able to lay my head on my leg stretching my hamstrings but since I’ve started lifting and working my legs 3 days per week I can’t even straighten my legs while sitting. I’m not sore per say, just completely inflexible in a matter of weeks. Will I eventually gain flexibility in my legs or am I just using improper format (squats/deadlifts)?

  • stopcryingyoulefties

    Here is the scoop. When I was 16 I was 160, by the time I was 17 I was 250, by 17.5 I was 268. I put on some fat, mostly muscle. I was considered a freak. Everyone around my age around the city knew my name and I loved it at the time. Though it was obvious that it wasn’t natural. Though I didn’t run anywhere near the gear these new guys are running. I will admit, I wasn’t looking to be a bodybuilder, or a power lifer(I could of been one though, and I definitely looked like one). As any young kid you look up to the older guys, and sometimes don’t have any regard for the future. If anything I loved the attention I got, and kept going.

    So you can imagine what happened. I gave up the life right before I had my first kid. Stretch marks all over my body(deep ones, that look even more disgusting even though they are white now because they are caving in). High BP since I was 22, been on TRT since I was 23. Though that is possibly due to another life mistake I had made. Though the thing is I still feel better albeit weaker and more out of shape, but not as immobile and out of breath(being so big at that age take some psychological tolls. I always try to warn people, never to gear+bulk when they first start lifting if they have genetics to grow, especially when young, or you will regret it badly.

    So with a background aside, I am now about 230, have lost about 65% of my gains. If I cut to a low percent I would be cut at 195. I am about to start rebuilding myself into something new instead of the previous meathead I was, I wan’t to be be a lean and healthy and agile 215-220.

    So to do that my flexibility is one of my top priorities. When I say I am inflexible I mean it. I mean I still can’t touch my shoulders after all this time. I still can barely put my arms around my back. If I got arrested it would need double linked cuffs.

    I have been on your site before, and noticed it is always one of the sites that come up when looking for things related to what I wan’t to achieve. You seem to have alot of knowledge of those.

    Where do you think I should start with total body inflexibility? I am so flexibility challenged that if a MMA fighter wanted to submit me anywhere aside from the neck(even a pro), they would need to be unbelievably strong, that is how much resistance my body gives without giving me pain. I chalk this up to getting too big too fast without stretching. Most places I look online.

  • Siva

    Hey Mike,
    Just started reading your book. I am going to ask you a very broad question. This comes from a guy who has read a lot more about fitness than actually hitting the gym.

    I am good at most sports you can think of. But i am never really really good at them, Reason?
    1. I get injured often.
    2. Not strong enough to beat the best.

    I have read most of your book and decided to give it a real go.
    I am 167, 18% BF and 24 years old. I want to get strong to play the sports i love better. Do you think your workout will accomplish that without reducing my flexibility?

    And what do i do first, Bulk? Cut? Maintain?
    I think you say get to 10% before bulking, but i’ll look crazy thin if i do that.
    Thanks, and sorry for the longgg comment.

    • Thanks for picking up my book!

      Cool on the reasons why you want to start following the program! Gaining strength will definitely help, and it won’t have any effect on your flexibility. 🙂

      Yep, you should cut to 10% BF. Then you can focus on building muscle!

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

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