Stretching is one of the most over looked parts of training in today’s world of pumping iron, hoisting massive weights above our heads and repping out until the death. Most people acknowledge stretching as a means to increase their flexibility and avoid injury, but most don’t get injured and most don’t want to be gymnasts correct? Well stretching can actually have a HUGE influence on muscle growth as well as your strength, interested? Read on and discover exactly how your rate of flexibility can affect your level of strength and muscle gain.
So picture this, you have just finished blitzing your arms and you love the looks you get as people’s eyes bulge at the vascularity and volume of your guns. This is of course the unmistakable desired muscle pump, where you have shuttled gallons of blood into a small area and supersized your muscles in a matter of minutes. Therefore having done this the last thing you want to do is stretch the muscles out for 10 minutes after a workout and lose that compact look. However if you knew that stretching your muscles regularly actually increased muscle growth then you would think about it. In fact, I know many IFBB Pros who do this to great effect! Until they have stretched out their muscles after a workout, they don’t see the workout as complete!
So how does stretching make your muscles grow faster? It is quite simple really. Every muscle in your body is wrapped up in something known as the ‘Fascia’ which is a form of muscle. However this doesn’t grow with training and many believe it is in itself the limiting factor to your rate of muscular hypertrophy as when its ‘full’ it simply restricts anymore growth. Muscle memory is in fact related to your fascia as when you train after a lengthy spell away from the gym, your fascia has been stretched before so the muscle comes back easy. This is also why beginners make gains fast because their fascias aren’t full of muscle fibers. Although a strong theory and not fact, world famous trainers like Neil Hill and Hany Rambod support the idea that you need to stretch the fascia to achieve maximum muscle growth. So there in short is why stretching does indeed increase the rate of muscle growth. As an analogy you could imagine a balloon reaching its maximum capacity holding air and after this it can’t grow anymore. However if you were to increase the flexibility of the balloon it would continue to grow that bit more and hold more ‘air’ which in your case is of course muscle fibers and, the balloon is your fascia.
To give you an example, after a biceps workout try stretching your arms out, with them completely extended. Then stretch them against a form of resistance to really maximize the stretch. This will help stretch out your fascia and it will also optimize the blood flow into the muscle. Right after a workout this is key because it should equate to higher levels of nutrients in the muscle cell. This is all during a time (post-workout) where your muscles are CRAVING muscle building nutrients!
There you have a clear and defined explanation as to why you do indeed need to stretch your muscle fascia after you train. By doing this your increasing your capacity to house more muscle mass! In the past I have done this, and I will again in the future. It is another shock tactic I use some of the time to ‘get that little bit extra!’