While conventional wisdom says static stretching improves flexibility over resistance training, a study presented today at American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore calls that into question. Researchers compared the two techniques’ effect on flexibility of the same muscle/joint complexes in a 5-week intervention.

“The results suggest that carefully constructed, full-range resistance training regimens can improve flexibility as well as—or perhaps better than—typical static stretching regimens,” said James R. Whitehead, EdD, FACSM, presenting author of the study, in a statement issued by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Indianapolis.

Twenty-five college-age volunteers were randomly assigned to groups performing either resistance training or static stretching. A 12-person control group remained inactive. All were pretested on hamstring extension, hip flexion and extension, and shoulder extension flexibility, as well as peak torque of quadriceps and hamstring muscles. The resistance training and stretching programs focused on the same muscle-joint complexes over similar movements and ranges. Post-tests measured flexibility and strength.

The results—which may surprise advocates of stretching to improve flexibility—showed no statistically significant advantage of stretching over resistance training. Resistance training, in fact, produced greater improvements in flexibility in some cases, while also improving strength. Whitehead emphasized that this was a preliminary study involving a small sample size and called for carefully designed research with more participants to confirm or disprove the results.

[Source: ACSM]