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Can Weightlifting Make You Stiff(er)?


In the absence of scar tissue formation, bone spurs, incomplete recovery from injuries, and muscle imbalances, can weightlifting/resistance training make you stiff(er)? If yes, what is the mechanism involved? Let's assume you never do stretching exercises.

This thread is inspired by Mike Robertson's article, "The Keys to Upper Body Injury Prevention and Strength", on another site (I'm afraid that a mod will delete it if I post a link). There I saw Little Stevie having trouble doing static stretching. I also wonder how big the contribution from the natural process itself (old joints are stiffer, no?) and muscle bulk are to this "stiffening" phenomenon (if it exists)?


If you do not put the muscle/joint through its full ROM, then yes over time the muscle will shorten or become stiff. A muscle being short and a muscle being stiff are two different things - one is a length issue and the other is a tissue quality issue.

Do I feel that weightlifting will make you "stiff(er)"? If done improperly, maybe. But it wouldn't be the sole influencing factor. Your activities done outside of your training will factor into your "stiffness" much more than the weightlifting will. Sitting at a desk x 5-7 hours a day will cause your hips to become way more "stiff" than squatting or any other exercise.

When you weight train you cause micro trauma to the muscles so small bits of "scar tissue"/muscular adhesions can be created, so you can't just eliminate those from the equation since they commonly occur from weightlifting. Immediately after training, the muscles are full of blood, you get DOMS, etc which all can have a negative effect on ROM. Also, you take somebody who does bench 3x week without doing any pulling exercises and yes, their anterior shoulder muscles (pecs, etc) will become "stiff" due to the muscular imbalances being created.

So your loaded question of "can weightlifting make you stiff(er)?" with all of the extra circumstances (no joint issues, no injures, no stretching, etc) can best be answered like this: IMO, no. Weightlifting, if done properly, will not make you stiffer, as long as you are putting your joints through a full ROM. But again, your question and extra circumstances are poorly phrased and make it a loaded question.


I'm sorry if it seems like a loaded question, but it's not my intention to make it so because I also train with weights (a beginner Olympic weightlifter). The extra circumstances are there because their effect is clear that they will decrease your body function. Sorry if I didn't phrase the words well enough.

It's interesting that lifting weight or doing resistance training with reduced ROM will make the muscles involved to shorten or become "stiff" like you said. How does this factor into powerlifters who usually do their lifts with reduced ROM (because of their lifting style)? Do you think that they should also train the lifts but with greater ROM? For example if you arch your back high in benchpress, then also bench with dumbbells to keep the arm joints' ROM high. Or perhaps static stretching post exercise and mobility drills are enough to counter the effect?


Weight lifting does make your muscles stiffer... but it's not so much about stiffness as it is about relative stiffness. If you train one muscle group too much and not its antagonist enough, you will have one be far stiffer than the other. Without stretching or soft tissue work on that muscle (or a more balanced training program for antagonists), this increased stiffness will lead to soft tissue creep that will effect your posture.

Prolonged postures will lead to muscle SHORTNESS which is different from stiffness. Stiffness actually isn't a bad thing, as it helps you generate more tension, increase the load you can lift, and perform plyometric exercises with more power... Stiffness is just a resistance to stretch (think about a rubber band and a thick rubber band of the same length... both can stretch fine, you just need to apply more force to stretch them... strong and big muscles are like the thicker rubber band).

However, muscles that don't receive regular soft tissue work and stretching will get short... and that is what you want to avoid.