The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Pairing Stretching within Strength Segments Improves Flexibility and Strength

Written by
Karyn Hughes, MEd
Posted in
Move more

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sound to good to be true? Well it isn't. Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. is a renowned fitness researcher, who also has practical insights for ways to save time during workouts without compromising results. He realizes that many of us spend time and energy in resistance training and cardiovascular programs, but fail to find time to stretch. So he conducted a study at the South Shore YMCA with 76 participants from their fitness classes aimed at showing the effect stretching exercises can have when mixed in with normal training routines.  The fitness class activity consisted in performing 12 Nautilus strength exercises and approximately 20-25 minutes of aerobic activity on a treadmill or cycle. This was the standard protocol.

For the study, about half of the participants continued with the standard workout protocol, and the other half added stretching exercises to the work out. To save time and to make the stretches specific to the strength training, every Nautilus strength exercise was paired with an appropriate stretch for the same muscle group. Each stretch was held for 20 seconds; 40 seconds for stretches performed on both sides of the body. The actual time for the stretching was about 6 minutes.

According to Dr. Westcott, “The results of this 10-week study were both anticipated and surprising.”  It was expected that the group that included the stretching exercises would see increased gains in joint flexibility, and they did.  For example, their hamstring flexibility increased 2.4 inches compared to a 1.4 inch improvement for the non-stretching group.

Here is the surprise. The stretching group gained almost 20 percent more muscle strength than the non-stretching participants! Again, looking at the hamstrings, those who stretched increased their hamstring strength by 19.5 pounds whereas those who did not stretch increased their hamstring strength by only 16.4 pounds.

In another study by Westcott, 52 golfers did a standard 13 Nautilus exercises routine and 25 golfers did a combination of strength and stretching exercises for 8 weeks.  Each stretch was held for 10 seconds. Average age of the golfers was 57. The golfers who performed stretching increased their joint flexibility significantly more than the golfers who only did strength exercises, but more important to the golfers was that those who did both strength and stretching increased their club head speed twice as much as those who did strength only training! Club head speed basically determines driving power and with each mile per hour increase it yields about 2.3 yards more driving distance.

In conclusion, Westcott said the two studies "… showed superior results by combining, strength training and stretching exercises. It would therefore seem that muscle strength, joint flexibility, movement speed, and performance power can all benefit from a relatively basic and brief exercise program that includes appropriate strengthening and stretching components.”

So what are you waiting for? Save time with pairing stretching with the strength exercises, gain flexibility, increase strength by 20%, and even power for sports activities. To learn more stretches to incorporate into your workout go to the 'Exercise' section of and click on Flexibility. Once there you can even sort through the section by equipment type and area of the body.


Wayne L. Westcott “Best of Both Worlds: Stretching & Strengthening from ongoing series call Keeping Fit at; May 3, 2013.