Differences Between Resistance & Inflexibility


Although they can be easily confused, inflexibility and resistance have many significant differences. Resistance is the amount of force being applied against your body to challenge your movements. Conversely, inflexibility is a structural inability to move your body beyond a certain point. Being able to identify your inflexibilities will guide you in creating an effective workout routine and aid in preventing acute and chronic use injuries.

Identifying Function

  • During the same movement, you can determine both the resistance and the inflexibility of any joint. When you perform a biceps curl, the amount of weight in the dumbbell, or the strength of a resistance band or pulley, serves as the resistance to challenge your biceps and improve strengthening. The inability to bend farther or straighten your elbow more is the limit of your joint flexibility. Lost ability to fully bend or fully straighten is inflexibility and should be addressed.

Pros and Cons of Resistance

  • Resistance offers many positive effects, including increased calorie burn, improve muscle tone, increased muscle size and elevation of cardiovascular intensity. However, too much resistance can lead to impaired form or overuse injuries. Take care when exercising to use only the amount of weight or resistance that allows you to maintain proper posture and form. Increase your resistance by 10 percent per week at most to reduce your risk of injury.

Pros and Cons of Inflexibility

  • Every joint in your body has some level of inflexibility. This is natural to prevent the over-flexion or over-extension of the joint, which could damage your muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. Abnormal loss of full range of motion can result in injuries, however, as well as increased inflexibility from muscles that do not move through the full range of motion and continue to shorten over time. Add stretches before and after your workout to help you increase your flexibility. You may have an anatomical anomaly that restricts your ability to move. In this case, you should consult with a doctor or therapist to address your inflexibility.

Testing Resistance and Inflexibility

  • The tests for resistance and inflexibility differ in many ways. When a therapist tests your range of motion, she may use a goniometer, which is an adapted two-arm projector tool that measures the amount of degrees of range. Your therapist then compares your movement with national averages for your age group and determines if there is any inflexibility. When testing for your strength, your therapist will provide resistance by pushing on your arm or leg and comparing. The amount of pressure you are able to resist without being moved is then compared with that of other people your age. The therapist will assign you a value from zero to five as set forth by the Manual Muscle Testing scale.

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