How to implement stretching for optimal muscle growth.
As with any form of training, your specific goal should be taken into consideration. If this goes against your “special” training methods, that you will argue till the day you die, as you can’t open your mind to a different train of thought then don’t bother reading on. For the individuals that are looking to soak up as much valuable information to better themselves and their knowledge base then I hope you get value from this article as it is surprising overlooked.
The purpose of stretching generally has been used to lengthen out a muscle to release tightness, improve flexibility, mobility, etc. By no means am I saying that these do not have a purpose but you need to know how it affects your goal. With the goal of building muscle, we need to understand why and when to stretch to optimize your training both from muscle power output and injury prevention.
The one undeniable fact is that the only thing a muscle can do is contract. When your goal is to cause muscle growth, then this should be your MAIN focus. If there is one thing I want you to understand, it’s that when weight training you want to be able to fully contract muscle through a full range.
So, if you stretch a muscle before putting it under load you are essentially telling to relax before loading it, this is bad news. But if you are still stretching before weight training, this is asking for an injury if you are pushing yourself, as you are loading a muscle outside its stable range. This is because when you stretch you essentially tell a muscle its ok to lengthen further regardless of how stable it is, to feel more “loose” …. GUYS!!! There is a reason it is tight in the first place.
Your body is smart, it causes tightness, not to piss you off, but to protect itself! If it has no contractile strength in a certain range, usually the full lengthen position, it will make this area tight to protect itself and stop it from injuring itself in this range. So you are essentially doing the exact opposite and telling it not to protect itself and stretch into a position that has minimal control… please think about that for a second…
There is obviously exceptions to this rule but if you understand this key concept as to how stretching beforehand will negatively affect weight training, you be better off than 90% of lifters following the same warm up habits as a road runner (who has a totally different goal).
So when should I stretch, should I stretch at all?
There is definitely benefits to stretching post lift but not for the reason you may have originally thought as it will mainly be for blood flow and recovery benefits. I guarantee if you take the time to learn proper movement patterns and learn to contract a muscle with control through an entire range (available range without forcing it) you will not only get more flexible but it will also allow you to build more muscle that will look much more complete and balanced.
So, where SHOULD I stretch if at all for muscle building.
This in very simple terms is the application of loading a “pumped” muscle in a stretch with weight. It is definitely not something I want you to just go away and try out on your favorite exercises, but if you take the time to learn this stuff and implement it properly it will genuinely change the game!
The idea is to hold the weight in a lengthened position after a full set to failure to maximise the damage of that set. The reason it is so important is because the muscle is still forced to contracted in this range rather than be passively relaxed. Exercises to try it on would be hack squat, pull downs and incline db curls to start.
Would love to know how you find it !
P.S. If you’re ready to step up and take control of your training, lets book in a coaching call so we can talk 1on1 about what you’re struggling with and find the ultimate game plan for your physique.