External mechanical forces resulting from the pressure exerted by wind or water movement are a major stress factor for plants and may cause regular disturbances in many ecosystems. A plant's ability to resist these forces relies either on minimizing the forces encountered by the plant (avoidance strategy), or on maximizing its resistance to breakage (tolerance strategy). We investigated plant resistance strategies using aquatic vegetation as a model, and examined whether avoidance and tolerance are negatively correlated. We tested the avoidance-tolerance correlation across 28 species using a phylogenetically corrected analysis, after construction of a molecular phylogeny for the species considered. Different species demonstrated contrasting avoidance and tolerance and we demonstrated a significant negative relationship between the two strategies, which suggests an avoidance-tolerance trade-off. Negative relationships may result from costs that each strategy incurs or from constraints imposed by physical laws on plant tissues. The existence of such a trade-off has important ecological and evolutionary consequences. It would lead to constraints on the evolution and variation of both strategies, possibly limiting their evolution and may constrain many morphological, anatomical and architectural traits that underlie avoidance and tolerance.