Does Strength Training Make You Inflexible?
There is a lot you need to learn when starting an exercise program. For instance, did you know that cardiorespiratory exercise can burn a lot of calories, unwanted fat, and maintain healthy body weight? Strength training, on the other hand, can make muscles stronger and enhance their definition.
A workout program that includes both cardiorespiratory exercise and strength training can improve health, and enhance appearance faster than what any one mode of exercise can achieve. Strength training can contribute substantially to an increase in muscle size.
While many people strength train for the express purpose of increasing muscle size, it’s important to realize that not everyone wants that outcome. In fact, some might avoid it altogether because they have heard what is a widely believed misconception — that strength training could make you inflexible.
If you have heard this myth and were avoiding strength training, it’s important to understand a little bit about how muscles work. You would then know strength training could actually help improve flexibility and not reduce it.
Difference between compound and isolation exercises
Let’s first understand the difference between isolation and compound exercises.
Muscle isolation exercises, as the name suggests, focus on using only one body part or muscle group at a time. Compound exercises on the other hand — a favorite with high-performance athletes — works on multiple muscle groups and joints, which could help improve strength and flexibility at the same time.
An example of an isolation exercise is the traditional biceps curl, which involves only the elbow joint and upper arm muscles. An instance of a compound movement would be the seated row, which uses the upper back, shoulder, deep core, and biceps muscles at the same time.
The modern fitness industry evolved from bodybuilding and, as a result, many workout programs focus on muscle isolation exercises to increase overall size and definition. Isolation exercises cause growth because all the work is being done by a single muscle or muscle group. If one muscle grows more than another, it could limit flexibility by causing a muscle imbalance.
When the muscles on the front of the shoulder become larger than the back muscles, it can pull the joint out of position, which can limit its ability to move and reduce flexibility. This happens a lot when someone first starts a workout program. They focus primarily on the “mirror muscles”, which are the muscles on the front of the body that can be seen in a mirror, and often neglect the “posterior chain” muscles on the backside.
Also read: How to Build Lean Muscle Mass
Strength training that can improve flexibility
Supersets are a strength training strategy that could help you improve flexibility while increasing definition and becoming stronger — all at the same time. A superset is when two exercises for opposite muscle groups are performed back-to-back. For example, a set of barbell bench presses followed by a set of seated rows, or a set of incline dumbbell presses followed by chin-ups.
It is one way of reducing the risk of developing a muscle imbalance. Additionally, as one muscle group rests while the other works, it could help improve the overall range of motion for the involved joint(s).
Examples of supersets
For best results, do the same number of reps between each exercise. The point of supersets is to keep your work-rate up, but once you have completed both sets, rest for 15 to 30 seconds, before starting the next superset.
- Barbell bench press and seated cable rows
- Incline dumbbell press and chin-ups
- Seated dumbbell shoulder press and kneeling one-arm rows
- Chest flyes and rear deltoid raises (reverse flyes)
- Seated leg extension and lying hamstring curl
- Barbell squat and barbell Romanian Deadlift
- 2-hand Kettlebell swing and push-ups
They are essential for a great workout, but keep in mind that rest is specific to the muscles involved. Supersets are great because they allow one muscle to work while another rests, which results in less time spent resting and more time exercising during a single workout.
Using supersets, like the ones identified above, could help you to become stronger and more mobile in the same workout. Not only that, because you are doing two exercises in a row with minimal rest, you would also be increasing your heart rate. This means that you would end up doing all three components of fitness at the same time for a workout that is both efficient and effective.