Can your strength training regime also help improve your flexibility? Many athletes use passive stretching as a way to increase their flexibility which can help improve their training results, however recent research demonstrated that strength training alone was another way to increase joint range of motion. Relaxation also appears to be another factor in improving joint flexibility and has been confirmed by research. Selecting strengthening and stretching exercises that are similar to the movement pattern of your sport can also help to improve sport specific flexibility.
A recent study posted in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in May of 2008 titled “Influence of Strength Training on Adult Women’s Flexibility” (Monteiro, Simao, et.al) looked at how 10 weeks of strength training influenced flexibility in sedentary middle-aged women. The exercises used in the study included bench press(free-weight), Smith squat machine, anterior wide grip lat pull-down, 45-degree leg press, 30-degree inclined bench press, hack squat machine, and abdominal crunches. The average age of the women in the study was 37 years +/- 1.7 years.
This particular study demonstrated that after training for 10 weeks and going through three (3) circuits of 8 to 12 repetitions of the seven (7) exercises listed above, that significant improvements in range of motion occurred with the following movements; hip flexion and extension, trunk flexion and extension and shoulder horizontal adduction. The areas that did not improve range of motion where elbow and knee flexion. While this study did show that strength training can improve flexibility in sedentary women, it is not clear what the changes would have been with active women. Range of motion that improved in this study that would benefit rowing was hip and trunk flexion, as well as trunk extension.
Learning how to do relax while competing has been shown to be an important factor in peak performances. So whether you are doing passive stretching, strength training, or practicing your sports movement relaxation can help improve your range of motion and performance. There has been some disagreement over whether one’s limitation’s in flexibility is really from the inability to completely relax the involved muscles. Studies have shown that range of motion is much greater when a person is completely anesthetized, Walsh (1992) suggested that the inability to relax is a major limitation in the range of motion about a joint”.
When it comes to rowing flexibility there are several key lifting movements that will increase your rowing flexibility: overhead squats and straight-leg dead lifts (SLDL). Both of these lifting movements are excellent stretches but can also be used as an integral part of your strength program. Whether you are in the boat or in the gym, relaxation is a key factor in a good performance and is probably why you hear coaches make that suggestion often. Training movements repeatedly helps to improve relaxation. There are few sports that require as much flexibility as rowing. Selecting exercises similar to the rowing motion can help improve both flexibility and strength which will allow for a longer and more relaxed and powerful stroke.
**When strength training make sure you are under the supervision of a trained professional to assist with proper lifting technique.