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Strength and Flexibility: The Foundations of Physical Fitness
Written by Rob Williams   

Focus on strength and flexibility today for future well-being.

man lifting weights

There are a lot of clichés in the world of fitness. One most often heard is: “You’ve only got one body, so you’d better look after it.” I’d like to suggest that few statements are so true, and so important.

Throughout my own lifetime, I’ve put my body through a lot. Sporting activities like soccer and football, plus an active career where I spend long, physical days on my feet have put a lot of stress through my muscles and joints. Although I do experience aches and pains, I feel fortunate to be physically healthy and well enough to stay ahead of my two active boys. I attribute much of this to the fact that I’ve looked after my body by maintaining my functional strength and flexibility.

Get Fit for a Rainy Day

man lifting weights

I know there are many people who don’t regularly participate in a fitness program. They live their lives keeping up with their daily activities as necessary, often staying healthy and pain-free – at least for the first few decades. The way I look at it, this is kind of like going through life without putting any money aside in the bank. While you’re young and working hard, you might not notice whether or not you have any savings tucked away, but as you get older and your ability to earn a living is compromised, those savings could really come in handy.

When it comes to physical fitness, even if you don’t exercise regularly, your body will probably function just fine until you’re in your 30’s. You’ll have enough strength, and be active enough to keep everything moving and loose. Unfortunately, this is when many people become less active due to lifestyle obligations like family and work. At the same time, their metabolism begins to drop, so they don’t have as much energy. Here’s where your fitness really begins to matter.

If you’ve kept your muscles strong with regular resistance training, they should do an excellent job of moving your body while protecting your joints. This can reduce the chances of acute injuries or developing serious conditions like osteoarthritis, where joints become inflamed and painful due to excessive wear and tear. Well-conditioned muscles are also more metabolically active, which means they consume more energy and produce more fuel. This helps to maintain an elevated metabolism and reduces the likelihood of gaining excess body fat.

Stretch for Best Results

In addition to strength training, regularly stretching your muscles will help to keep them balanced and flexible, which will take stress off your joints and enable more efficient movement. Appropriate stretching will also facilitate better body posture, which improves appearance and optimizes the function of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory and neurological systems. This provides positive health benefits that are too numerous to list.

Fortunately, strength and flexibility aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s possible to have both. For example, pound for pound, gymnasts are some of the strongest athletes around, yet they are also among the most flexible. This doesn’t happen by chance. It takes diligent training to build muscle and maintain strength, and regular stretching to keep muscles lengthened and supple. Be sure to do both. If you stretch without strengthening, you won’t have a lot of muscle mass, and if you lift without stretching, you’re not going to be very flexible.

At my training studio, I always recommend that clients perform strength training and flexibility work together. Every resistance training session should begin with a warm-up and dynamic stretching of the muscles that you’re about to train. This lengthens and loosens the muscle tissue, increases blood flow, excites the nervous system and lubricates the joints in preparation for the demands of the workout. Between exercises, when your body is warm and loose, I encourage additional stretching and range of motion work. At the end of each workout, stretch the muscles you’ve just trained as part of your cool-down to remove waste products and reduce post-workout soreness. Take this time to stretch other muscles in your body that you know are tight.

Remember, with regular strength training and frequent stretching, you can build a body you’ll be proud of today, and enjoy for many years to come.

Rob Williams -

Rob Williams is a practicing kinesiologist, medical exercise specialist and posture expert, who has performed over 20,000 hours of private client instruction in the last 20 years. Rob is owner of Mixx Fitness Studio and Performance Posture Clinic in downtown Vancouver. His personal website is


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