As strange as it sounds, recent studies show stretching between weight lifting in the gym could increase the amount of muscle you are able to build since experts say it increases the total amount of time the muscle is in tension and therefore ultimately enhance the ‘neuromechanical stimuli’ i.e. how hard they work.
Here we’ve teamed up with the sports scientists at Myprotein to explain how stretching could add inches to your arms and width to your chest.
A study published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association proposed that stretching between heavy sets of weight training adds to the total amount of time the muscle is in tension and therefore ultimately enhance the ‘neuromechanical and metabolic stimuli’. Put more simply, this just means you increase how hard the muscles have to work.
Previously used by physical therapists, this method of stretching (strenuous activity followed by a stretch) is now being used by strength athletes, bodybuilders and those wanting to increase muscle mass and can be incorporated to train any muscle group.
One example would be performing a heavy set of squats to train the muscles of the legs, followed by immediately performing a hamstring stretch – which could be as simple as touching your toes and holding for 5-10 seconds.
Next, a lesson from the 1980s bodybuilders on stretching. All the muscles in the body are surrounded by a layer of dense, fibrous connective tissue known as a fascia. Its job is to essentially protect the muscles and allow them to maintain their position throughout the body.
However, it’s believed by experts that the fascia could actually hinder muscle growth, since it effectively reduces the amount of ‘room’ they have to grow. This would explain why some people find the calf muscles (gastrocnemius) so hard to train and make grow, because the fascia surrounding them is incredibly dense due to the extreme weight load the calves take on a daily basis.
But, as performed by the ‘old-school’ bodybuilders, stretching the gastrocnemius straight after a heavy training session when the muscles are fully ‘pumped’ and therefore already pushing against the fascia could be the key to muscular growth and expansion. So if you’re one of those having problems developing your lower legs, try performing 12 repetitions of calf raises with a heavy weight and then straight after enter into a calf stretch such as sitting on the floor, grabbing your toes and pulling them back for 5-10 seconds, stretching the already worked muscles in the process.
One of the oldest forms of ‘warming up’, stretching is used as an effective way to increase blood flow to the working muscles, as mentioned in a comprehensive review published by the UCT Sports Injuries Clinic at the University of Cape Town.
This has lead strength and conditioning coaches to believe stretching after a heavy strength based routine could help increase the delivery of essential nutrients to the muscles and decrease the build-up of lactic acid following a heavy training session.
This would not only aid the delivery of nutrients to the muscles but would also encourage circulation and therefore something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is essentially that aching feeling you have the day after a session that could stop you training again.
Another way to effectively increase blood flow to the muscles is by taking the correct pre-workout supplement. One that’s been scientifically formulated to do this is Pulse® V4 by MyProtein. Containing a nonessential amino acid called Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate, it increases the diameter of the blood vessels and allows more nutrients to be transported through the body and to the working muscles which ultimately provides the muscle tissue with the nutrients it needs to grow bigger and stronger: