Sunday, January 24, 2021

How To Increase Range Of Motion

All the kids posed for this picture

A typical comment from many of our patients is that they have been stretching all the time but their muscles still feel tight. 

Range of motion (ROM) is necessary as part of our health and important during sports performance. And static stretching is often prescribed to get better ROM gains. We know from previous research that static stretching is effective in improving our range of motion. 

However, the latest systematic review/ meta-analysis shows that strength training (ST) is just as effective as static stretching in getting improvements in ROM.

The researchers pooled data together and found eleven good quality studies comprising 452 participants to derive the following results.

Interventions lasted between 5 and 16 weeks while training frequency ranged from two to five times a week. Subjects included healthy sedentary subjects, subjects who already participate in ST subjects with fibromyalgia and subjects with chronic neck pain. There were also elderly adults who had difficulties in one of four tasks, transferring, bathing, walking and going to the toilet.

Both ST and static stretching groups showed significant improvement in ROM in seven of the studies. Differences between the groups were non significant. They did not find any significant differences in active and passive ROM for both ST and stretching. Dynamic stretching did not improve ROM in any of the groups.

You must be wondering how ST helps to improve ROM that is not statistically distinguishable from static stretching. The authors wrote that ST with an eccentric focus requires the muscles to produce forces in a lengthened position. This is what helps improve ROM. They also found that concentric strength training improves ROM when full range is required.

One study demonstrated significant reductions in pain associated with increases with strength, suggesting that decreased pain sensitivity may be another mechanism in which ST help increase ROM. Another mechanism may be an improved agonist-antagonist co-activation helping ROM gains.

The authors concluded that both ST and static stretching can improve ROM both in the short and long term suggesting that there are both neural and mechanical factors at work. Both ST and stretching can be prescribed to help improve ROM. If one does not respond or adhere well to a stretching program, they can switch to strength training instead.

What does that all mean you (if you did not understand the discussion above)? If you're looking to get an increase in your range of motion say in your knee joint, you can do eccentric strengthening exercises with some stairs at home. This previous article explains everything in a simple manner.

Just remember that static stretches are best done after exercise as just one bout of static stretching can slow you down as well as reduce your maximum strength.


Afonso J, Ramirez-Campillo R, Moscao J et al (2021). Strength Training Is As Effective As Stretching For Improving Range Of Motion: A Systematic Review And Meta-analysis. DOI:

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