There is no doubt that most men in today’s society lean towards a variety in training programs. Some of these are weight training programs, martial arts, boxing, and swimming. Women, on the other hand, tend to focus on specific workout regimes. Most of them seem to be attracted to yoga. Yoga is known to help improve flexibility and range of motion. Since women highly favor it, the assumption one can make is that women are more flexible than men. But is this truly the case? Are women more flexible than men because most of them do yoga? Let us find out!
In this article, we will be taking a look at various studies which have investigated which of these two genders is more flexible. We will comprehensively lay out their findings and explain the science behind their arguments. In addition, we will suggest how the group that is less flexible can improve their flexibility. Take a look!
Who Is More Flexible: Men Or Women?
Yoga is one of the best training programs to help improve flexibility. It entails multiple poses that enable your muscles to stretch, which in turn increases your motion range (7). Regularly practicing yoga can, therefore, improve your flexibility.
Judging by the attendance of both genders in yoga classes, you could assume that women are more flexible than men. This is because a more significant percentage of the attendees in these classes are women. But is it because men tend to gravitate more towards weight lifting programs? Or is it because men find yoga more convenient for women?
These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself before you jump to the conclusion of which gender is more flexible. Going further, you also have to evaluate the science behind the flexibility in both men and women. With that in mind, let us dive straight into what science says about flexibility in both genders.
Are Women More Flexible Than Men? What Does Science Say?
The traditional belief is that men are athletically superior but less flexible as compared to women. To help validate the truth in this statement, various studies have been conducted. Surprisingly, numerous studies acknowledge that women are more flexible than men. Let us take a deeper look at these studies and their justifications behind their inferences.
The first study was conducted by Medical News Today. It examined the sex differences in both genders in the body’s response to aerobic fitness. The primary focus was on how sex impacts the body’s ability to process oxygen once both genders start exercising (1).
The study determined that women’s bodies processed oxygen much faster than men after they started exercising (1). These researchers prove superior aerobic fitness is more excellent in women, indicating that women are naturally more fit than men (1). This might explain why they are also naturally more flexible than men (1).
The second study also indicated that women are more flexible than men due to their high stretch tolerance (4). In this study, researchers investigated musculotendinous stiffness (MTS) and ankle joint range of motion (ROM) in men and women after an acute session of passive stretching.
They discovered that MTS was higher in men, explaining why few participated in the pre and post-stretching programs (4). Similarly, they found that women who passively stretched their calf muscles had increased stretch tolerance beyond that of men, ie, better flexibility (4).
Arguably, men are less flexible than women because they tend to prioritize other training programs like weight lifting. A WebMD expert acknowledges that this is the case and that women are generally more flexible because of the nature of their bodies (5).
According to this expert, women are less muscular than men, causing them to incorporate exercises such as stretching in their workouts (5). In contrast, men have more muscle leading them to bulk up more than women.
As a result, men opt for exercises that increase their muscle mass and strength compared to their flexibility (5). This might explain why so few men have stretching routines in their workout programs. The problem with such exercises is that they make them less pliable over time. This demonstrates their reduced flexibility compared to women.
Like with the other studies, this study also confirmed that women are more flexible than men. This study aimed at investigating the effect of stretching on the flexibility of the rectus femoris in men and women (3).
According to these researchers, there are distinct gender differences in the viscoelastic properties of a tendon that can impact flexibility (3). Both men and women have different viscoelastic properties, meaning stretching affects flexibility in each one differently.
The study discovered that these viscoelastic properties favored stretching in women. They significantly improved the rectus femoris muscle flexibility, explaining why women are more flexible than men in this area (3).
All these studies provide evidence that women are more flexible than men due to various reasons. These range from their choice of workout programs, viscoelastic properties, stretch tolerance, and aerobic fitness.
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Can Men Improve Their Flexibility?
Of course, they can! The only way they can boost their flexibility is by stretching regularly. However, they must focus on stretching routines that improve flexibility. Here are some suggested stretches for flexibility that men can try out:
The Child’s Pose
Medical News Today acknowledges this pose as one of the very best yoga poses for non-flexible individuals. It actively stretches and improves the flexibility of your lower back (2). Here is how you achieve this pose (2):
- Start on all fours with your hands directly placed underneath your shoulders. Make sure that your knees are slightly wider than your hips.
- Start to slowly sit back on your legs while stretching your arms forward. Try to rest your forehead on the floor gently.
- Lengthen your spine as far as you can or to the point of comfort. Do not overstretch it as it may result in back injuries or aches.
- Hold this position for 20 seconds before releasing and repeating.
The Bridge Pose
- Lie on your back and bend your knees. Keep your hands by your sides and feet hip-width apart.
- Push into your feet, activate your glutes, and slowly start lifting your lower back off the floor. Bring your hips in line with both your knees and shoulders.
- Remember to keep your arms by your sides and pressed on the floor throughout the movement. Feel free to use them for stability.
- Clench your glutes and hold this pose for about 15 seconds.
- Slowly lower your body to the floor.
- Repeat at least five times.
The Standing Hamstring Stretch
As the name implies, this stretch helps improve flexibility in your leg muscles, primarily in your hamstrings. To perform this stretch, do the following (6):
- Start in a standing position in front of a sturdy object such as a bench, step, or chair.
- Stretch your right leg and place it on the step, block, or bench.
- Bend slightly using your left knee, but not beyond your toes. Make sure you stretch to the point of comfort or until you feel a gentle stretch at the back of your right thigh.
- Bend slightly forward from your hips if you want to stretch more.
- Remember to move evenly and slowly without bouncing back and forth
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat and switch sides.
Lying Knee-To-Chest Stretch
Doing the lying knee-to-chest stretch can also lengthen and improve flexibility in your lower back muscles. It also stretches your quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors (6). Here is a guide on how to stretch using this exercise (6):
- Lie flat on your back with your arms resting by your sides and on the floor.
- Gently pull one of your knees towards your chest. Do not arch your back or lift your head to see how far you are stretching. Keep your back and head on the floor throughout the movement.
- Try to bring it as close as you can to your chest or until you feel a stretch in your lower back.
- If you do have some back problems, make sure you bend your other leg.
- Hold this position for at least fifteen seconds.
- Release and do the same on the other leg.
- Lie on your belly with your head facing forward and hands by your sides.
- Make sure your legs are stretched out behind you.
- Bring your arms next to your body and directly under your shoulders.
- Use them for support to lift your upper body from the floor. Make sure you are facing directly ahead and that your toes are pointed out. Similarly, make sure your arms are stretched out and not locked or bent at your elbows.
- Remember to breathe out as you lift your chest and upper body. Let your hips push into the floor.
- Hold this position for about fifteen to thirty seconds.
- Release and return to the starting position.
These are among the best stretches to help improve flexibility in both men and women. As always, remember to add them to your fitness program after talking to a professional.
The Bottom Line
Are women more flexible than men – indeed, they are. They tend to be naturally more fit, have a higher stretch tolerance, and possess viscoelastic properties, all of which make them more flexible. Men can boost their flexibility by doing yoga poses such as the Bridge, Cobra, Knee-to-Chest, Standing Hamstring, and the Child’s Pose. Remember to talk to a fitness coach making such changes to your workout plan.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Battle of the sexes: Are women fitter than men? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Best stretches for lower back flexibility and pain relief (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Comparison between males and females on the effect of PNF hold relax stretching over rectus femoris flexibility (2014, pubmed. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Gender differences in musculotendinous stiffness and range of motion after an acute bout of stretching (2010, pubmed. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- His and Her Fitness (2004, webmd.com)
- Stretches to help you get loose (2019, webmd.com)
- Yoga (2019, webmd.com)