Stretching deep dive 2/2: Can you just lift instead of stretching? | Biolayne
  1. Reps
  2. Issue 9
  3. Stretching deep dive 2/2: Can you just lift instead of stretching?

Stretching deep dive 2/2: Can you just lift instead of stretching?

Resistance Training Induces Improvements in Range of Motion: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Alizadeh et al (2023)
Can you just lift instead of stretching?

What can lifting not do? From increases in muscle mass and hypertrophy all the way to reducing all-cause mortality risk and increasing bone density. But can lifting increase range of motion and potentially replace stretching? It sounds too good to be true but lifting may just be THAT good of a training modality.


What did they test? The authors reviewed the current literature to understand whether resistance training alone can improve range of motion and how it compares to stretching.
What did they find? Lifting alone was able to significantly increase range of motion.
What does it mean for you? If you lift through a full range of motion using machines or free weights you don’t need to stretch to increase flexibility.

What’s the Problem?

*in DMX voice* Here we go agaiiiiiin (RIP).

As mentioned in the first part of this two-part stretching series, stretching is a pretty big deal in fitness, regardless of one’s goals. If you ever took part in any form of sport or even a PE class at school, you’ve heard about stretching. In the previous article we went over a recent systematic review that found that stretching does not seem to massively affect muscle strength and may actually improve strength when an individual does not engage in resistance training (and is untrained). 

Before I introduce the study at hand, let’s have a quick look at some of the proposed “pros” for stretching and whether they are supported by the literature. Although most people think of static stretching when they hear the term, dynamic stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching are also used by individuals engaging in any form of exercise. Keep in mind that the table below is mostly referring to pros being made in the name of static stretching. Additionally, it’s important to also note that some of the studies cited below looked at the acute effects of stretching versus its long term effects.

Some of the supposed “pros” of stretching
ProSupported by the literature
Range of MotionYes for both dynamic and static stretching 1
DOMSNo for both dynamic and static stretching 2 3
InjuryProbably not for both dynamic and static stretching 4 5
Muscle StrengthYes for static stretching on its own
Light no for dynamic stretching
No when combined with lifting 6
*the above is for long term stretching
Sport performance
(strength & power sports, speed & agility sports and endurance dominant sports)
Light yes for dynamic stretching 7
Light no for static stretching

Dynamic stretching seems to be a solid option for athletes, which often takes place as part of their warm-up, but the main pro for stretching that seems to be supported by the literature, and the people that are big advocates of stretching, is its ability to increase range of motion. Increasing the range of motion of any given joint is of interest to many individuals as it can improve flexibility and often allow them to move better and in certain cases be more functional in their daily life. 

Disclaimer/side note: the word functional has become somewhat of a buzzword in the last few years as it does not really mean what most people think. Being functional means that you’re adequately equipped to perform a specific task. For most people being “functional” as far as daily life is concerned requires them to be able to bend over, move things, being able to lift relatively light objects overhead, walk etc. Being more flexible can help with some of the above thus the use of the “f” word. Squatting on a bosu ball or doing random stability drills is not “functional” as I doubt anyone has to randomly jump on a bosu ball with a bar on their back (apologies if you’re the ONE person that has to).

If you would like to continue reading...

New from Biolayne

Reps: A Biolayne Research Review

Only $12.99 per month

  • Stay up to date with monthly reviews of the latest nutrition and exercise research translated into articles that are easy for anyone to understand.
  • Receive a free copy of How To Read Research, A Biolayne Guide
  • Learn the facts from simplified research

About the author

About Dr. Pak
Dr. Pak

Pak is the Chief Editor of REPS, an online coach and a researcher. Pak did his PhD at Solent University in the UK on “the minimum effective training dose for strength”. As a Researcher, Pak is a Visiting Scholar in Dr. Schoenfeld's Applied Muscle Development Lab in New York City. Pak's research focuses on all...[Continue]

More From Pak