Time is one of the finite resources in life and is reported as the main barrier by individuals who do not reach the national guidelines for exercise minutes each week. Each portion of a weekly exercise program should be evaluated for both health and fitness, as well as, injury prevention benefits. Static stretching consistently has been shown to have little to no effect in these areas. This is not to say mobility is not important, but if a participant can gain mobility with another form of exercise that has a positive effect in these aforementioned areas it should be given priority.
Strength training has long been established as the gold standard exercise intervention for building muscle mass, improving strength, and restoring function. More recent research has shown its’ effectiveness on disease risk, mental health, and flexibility. These studies have disproven the old exercise myth on strength training and lost flexibility. Instead of lost flexibility, participants who perform strength training through the full range of motion gain flexibility over time. This is due to the lengthening or eccentric contraction as the muscle lengthens under tension (lowering the dumbbell toward the floor with a bicep curl). A recent review of the available evidence reported on the benefits of this form of exercise for improving muscle flexibility.
Diong and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta analysis on the effect of eccentric exercise on muscle flexibility (Musculoskeletal Sci Prac. 2022). Authors included 32 trials of over 1100 exercise participants undergoing trials comparing eccentric exercise to static stretching or eccentric exercise against a control group. Authors reported a large effect size, with narrow confidence intervals, for utilization of eccentric exercise to improve muscle length and flexibility. Participants are encouraged to save their time each week for aerobic and strength training exercises and avoid static stretching unless these priority exercises have been performed to national guidelines.